Eugene, Oregon is known for a few things. It is home to the largest collection of hippies in the United States thanks to its close proximity to some of the piniest herb in the lower 48. Its also the home of Nike, which pumps millions of dollars into the hideous uniforms worn by the University of Oregon football team. Many retinas have been scorched in recent years from viewing Oregon games since the Ducks have become the Pac-10's second best team and have played in many huge games. Last year it seemed like they might have what it took to win it all, but after losing Dennis "Deeznuts" Dixon to injury, the dream was vanquished. Now its 2008, will the Ducks hold onto their status as perennial Pac-10 contender, or will they slide down into mediocrity?
Offense: No offense was more dynamic than Oregon's last year. Led by the multitalented Dixon, the Ducks were a constant threat both running and throwing. Jonathan Stewart was also an excellent contributor who helped rid the notion of Pac-10 offenses being a collection of fruitcakes with wavy hair who play finesse football. Stewart, and Oregon, smashed some bitches faces in, which helped make them so effective. Now with those 2 stalwarts gone, the Ducks are going to have to reload with fresh ballers. Fortunately, there is plenty of talented players on tap. Running backs LaGarette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson could form the best tandem in the entire conference. They will run behind a talented offensive line that knows exactly how to function in the spread option attack. Oregon always has frisky receivers, and Jaison Williams has first round talent on the outside. The Ducks offense will still hinge on Dixon's replacement at QB. If Justin Roper can build on his Sun Bowl performance, this unit will ball. He may not have Dixon's athleticism but this offense has all the talent to be possibly the most dangerous in the Pac-10 this year.
Defense: The Ducks defense is built on speed and agressiveness, which helped them force a ton of turnovers last year. While the unit is a little on the smallish side, they can usually get away with this since the Pac-10 is such a wide open conference with few teams showing much interest in pounding the ball. The strength of the defense is the secondary, where safety Patrick "I am Asian, bitch" Chung should garner All-America consideration this season. Other standouts include defensive end Nick Reed and Jairus Byrd. Oregon has recruited well and has good depth at all positions, which will compensate for any injury concerns and allow the starters to continue to play their aggressive style that has made them one of the Pac-10's only effective defenses the past few years.
Coaching: Mike Bellotti may be an asshole, with a drunk wife to boot, but the man can coach football. He has built one of the nation's strongest programs where once one of the nation's wackest programs once lived. Thanks to recent success, Oregon is now able to pull in recruits from all across the nation, which is increasing the profile of the school even further. Bellotti thrives at taking in kids that are overlooked by the big California schools and turning them into stars in their own right. And though he may have lost 2 of the best players he's ever had, his coaching and recruiting have allowed the program the stability to remain a top flight contender regardless of who they lose on a year to year basis.
Predicted Schedule and Outcomes:
Washington - W
Utah State - W
@ Purdue - W
Boise State - W
@ Washington State - L
@ USC - L
UCLA - W
@ Arizona State - L
@ California - W
Stanford - W
Arizona - W
@ Oregon State - L
Oregon's schedule flipped around this year, and most of their best opponents are now road games. This has made the Ducks schedule one of the most brutal in the entire nation, and will thoroughly test this squad. Oregon always seems to get out of the gates fast and the first 4 games are all very winnable. Then comes a daunting stretch of 4 road games in 5 weeks. Washington State is a dangerous trap game, and going to USC is not going to be easy with a young quarterback behind center. Getting a split out of trips to Tempe and Berkeley would be a success, but at this stage of the season its going to be hard for Oregon not to have less than 3 losses. Its possible that they could win out from this stage of the season, but wacky things always happen in the Civil War and Oregon State always comes on late in the season. Even though I'm predicting 4 losses, Oregon should remain one of the Pac-10's toughest teams week in and week out. Its quite possible that the 2008 crucible will set the stage for a big time run in 2009 once the schedule flips around again.