#3 Oregon Football 2014 Preview

Oregon Ducks

Overall Rank: #3
#1 Pac-12

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Another year, another season of double-digit wins. Mark Helfrich has picked up right where Chip Kelly left the Oregon Ducks program two seasons ago. They still play fast, super fast. They love to run but also sling the ball around. They create trouble on defense as well and in the return games. With the BCS in everyone's rear view mirror and teams looking ahead to the first ever college football playoff, Oregon is in prime position to battle for the national championship. It'll have to get over and through the Pac-12 first, but it is hard not to look ahead to what this team may be able to accomplish.

2013 Record: 11-2, 7-2
2013 Bowl: Alamo Bowl vs. Texas (W 30-7)
Coach: Mark Helfrich (11-2 at Oregon, 11-2 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Scott Frost
Defensive Coordinator: Don Pellum

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Byron Marshall, RB, 1038 yards
Passing: Marcus Mariota, QB, 3665 yards
Receiving: Bralon Addison, WR, 890 yards
Tackles: Derrick Malone Jr., LB, 105
Sacks: Tony Washington, DL, 7.5
Interceptions: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, DB, 3

Other Key Returnees: RB Thomas Tyner, OL Hroniss Grasu, OL Hamani Stevens, LB Rodney Hardrick

Key Losses: RB De'Anthony Thomas, WR Josh Huff, OL Tyler Johnstone (out for season), DL Taylor Hart, DB Brian Jackson, DB Terrance Mitchell, DB Avery Patterson

Marcus Mariota's decision to return to school for his senior season leaves the Oregon Ducks with one of the most potent offenses in the country in the hands of a proven veteran. Mariota can do it all from the quarterback position. Lucky for him, he won't have to. Although water bug De'Anthony Thomas and the team's leading receiver, Josh Huff, are both gone, the Ducks still have incredible skill players at Mariota's disposal. Byron Marshall was a 1000-yard runner a season ago, and Bralon Addison should be special when he returns from an early-season injury. Along with an experienced offensive line, Oregon has no clear faults on that side of the ball. Unfortunately for opponents, the Ducks may also have a fearsome defense to match. The linebacking corp is led by Derrick Malone Jr. Tony Washington is coming back to anchor the defensive pass rush, and the nation's very best corner may be Oregon's own Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. If Mariota's decision to return to school was surprising, Ekpre-Olomu's was just as eyebrow-raising, as he was one of the elite corners even a year ago. If not for the delayed start to Addison's season and the season-ending injury for offensive lineman Tyler Johnstone, Oregon would have few question marks anywhere on the roster.

No team is perfect. Oregon struggled in a few facets a season ago. The Ducks weren't great on third-down defense. They were also one of the poorer Pac-12 teams in terms of getting defensive pressure in the backfield with sacks and tackles-for-loss. Oregon was also penalized a tremendous amount last season, had a poor showing in redzone offense and was one of the very worst time-of-possession teams in the country. In other words, Oregon was really darn good at pretty much everything major. Sure, penalties hurt; what hurts more is giving up a 40 yard sprint up the sideline. And it would be nice to see Oregon excel in the redzone and control clock, but they don't need to excel in the redzone and have never considered controlling clock under any circumstances. The Ducks have a system and a plan, and it works. But seriously, they could do with cutting down on the penalties.

The Bottom Line:
The Pac-12 may not be a two-horse race anymore. The past few seasons, it had always come down to Oregon or Stanford. With the immergence of UCLA and possible return to glory of USC, the conference title is no longer a coin flip. Oregon is helped by its schedule a bit as the Ducks will host both Stanford and early-season measuring stick Michigan State. Of course, a schedule favorable for wins may be unfavorable for Oregon in terms of making the four-team playoff at season's end. Strength of schedule will certainly play a huge factor. Depending of course on how certain things play out, it appears as though Oregon is in no position to lose a game and still get in, especially if a loss were to come at the hands of the Cardinal or Bruins.

Projected Bowl: Sugar Bowl (College Football Playoff)

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 273.5 (9th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 291.5 (21, 4)
Total Offense: 565.0 (2, 1)
Scoring Offense: 45.5 (4, 1)
Rushing Defense: 165.5 (66, 6)
Pass Defense: 204.5 (21, 1)
Total Defense: 370.1 (37, 3)
Scoring Defense: 20.5 (13, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.77 (17, 2)
Sacks: 2.23 (52, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 1.38 (29, 3)

Madness 2015 NFL Draft Rankings:
#1 Marcus Mariota
#8 Ifo Ekpre-Olomu
#46 Hroniss Grasu
#70 Tony Washington
#72 Arik Armstead
#88 Jake Fisher
#95 Derrick Malone

Madness 2014 Recruit Rankings:
#51 Royce Freeman
#55 Arrion Springs
#69 Jalen Brown
#186 Tony James


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