Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 7:00 PM
Seems like this is the story every season. The Oregon Ducks have one of the best teams in the nation, and are a popular pick to win…or at least play for…the national championship. As the season plays itself out…Oregon IS a great team, yet can’t even with their own division of their own conference…let alone play for a national championship!
Entering 2014…Oregon is on the short list of national hopefuls, and Stanford is right there behind them in the Pac 12 North race ready to steal the division and the conference. It’s been STANFORD representing the league in the Rose Bowl as champs the last two seasons.
Can the Ducks finally play to the fullest of preseason expectations this year? Let’s run the numbers! Note that returning starter information comes from the respected Athlon publication.
Pac 12 North
2013 Record: 11-2
2013 Rankings: 2 on offense, 37 on defense
Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 5 on defense
Head Coach: Mark Helfrich
Notebook: Marcus Mariota returns at quarterback, and will hopefully be able to stay healthy this season. He played hobbled last year, which turned the Ducks mortal in very short order. They lost twice in three weeks at Stanford and at Arizona…then they barely beat Oregon State as huge favorites in the regular season finale. If Mariota is healthy…then this team is fully capable of running the table. But, we are seeing signs of weakness since Chip Kelly left that could signal a continuing downtrend for the program if things don’t go perfectly healthwise.
2013 Record: 11-3
2013 Rankings: 69 on offense, 16 on defense
Returning Starters: 4 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: David Shaw
Notebook: Kevin Hogan returns at quarterback. He’s more impactful at that position than having the #69 offense in the nation would suggest because he’s such a good game manager. But, will he be able to manage games with only three other turning starters on his offense? There’s a lot to love about how this program continues to exceed national expectations with brains and hustle. The toughest non-conference game of 2014 comes at Notre Dame on October 4, which is immediately after a big road game at Washington. Assume the norm for handicapping…value vs. quality, but dangerous to trust as big favorites because they lack the depth it takes to run up the score.
2013 Record: 9-4
2013 Rankings: 13 on offense, 55 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Chris Peterson
Notebook: Only one team in the North changed head coaches in the offseason, and only one team lost its starting quarterback to graduation. And, Washington is that team in both instances! Chris Peterson comes over from Boise State, hoping to bust the hex that former Boise coaches have suffered from when moving up in class. Anyone remember what happened at Colorado with Peterson’s predecessor? Luckily the first four games are against relative weaklings, unless Illinois gets things going. A lot of volatility here…and we’re going to start out skeptical with an open mind.
2013 Record: 7-6
2013 Rankings: 26 on offense, 100 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Mike Riley
Notebook: The Beavers are inconsistency on steroids…capable of laying monster eggs vs. bad opponents (they opened with a lost to Eastern Washington)…while also being able to scare or beat top quality. We already mentioned that Oregon State almost took out Oregon in their season finale. They bullied Boise State 38-23 in the Hawaii Bowl. Quarterback Sean Mannion led a top 30 offense that’s poised to impress vs. a soft early schedule. Can Oregon State finally maintain intensity over a full season? Great sleeper if they can.
2013 Record: 6-7
2013 Rankings: 54 on offense, 102 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 6 on defense
Head Coach: Mike Leach
Notebook: Leach’s team showed flashes of brilliance last year. But, those offensive stats were padded in games against the likes of Southern Utah, Idaho, and California. They weren’t as good as that 6-7 record would have suggested. And, their late-game bowl meltdown against Colorado State was one for the history books. Connor Halliday is a senior quarterback capable of engineering a big win (the Cougars did beat USC, Utah, and Arizona last year), but who probably can’t be trusted to really take the team to the next level. We will pick our spots with this group. But, we’ll assume that elite offenses will continue to embarrass the horrible defense.
2013 Record: 1-11
2013 Rankings: 34 on offense, 122 on defense
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 4 on defense
Head Coach: Sonny Dykes
Notebook: Coach Dykes certainly seems to be in over his head at this level. Returning quarterback Jared Goff put up some numbers last year…but it’s easier to do that against garbage time defenses when you’re getting blown out every week. We’ll consider this team as big underdogs against opponents who are in lookahead or letdown spots as long as Goff isn’t banged up. Very hard to trust them otherwise.
That wraps up the North Division. Back with you tomorrow to talk about UCLA, USC, Arizona State, and the rest of the South Division of the Pac 12. Don’t forget that the best way to build your bankrolls for the coming football season is to WIN BIG EVERY DAY in BASEBALL! You can purchase daily BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about baseball or football service, call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.
Ahead in the NOTEBOOK…
Thursday: College Football…Pac 12 “South” Preview
Friday: MLB Series Preview…LA Dodgers at San Francisco
Saturday: College Football…Big 12 Preview
Sunday: College Football…American Athletic Conference Preview
Monday: MLB Series Preview…either Pittsburgh at SF, or Boston at Toronto
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview…either LA Angels at Baltimore or Atlanta at LAD
The two divisions of the SEC will bring our summer series of college football conference previews to a close a week from now. Amazing how this summer is flying by! Don’t let another day of BIG, JUICY WINNERS pass you by…link up right now with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!