The Road To The PAC-12 Title Looks Easy: Previewing The Oregon Ducks

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02: Head coach Chip Kelly of the Oregon Ducks looks on from the sideline in the first half against the Wisconsin Badgers at the 98th Rose Bowl Game on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

In 2011 Oregon coach Chip Kelly led the Ducks to heights they haven't seen in nearly 100 years, notching the program's first Rose Bowl win since 1917. In 2012, the Ducks could be in position to exceed last season's success.

In 2011 Oregon coach Chip Kelly led the Ducks to heights they haven't seen in nearly 100 years, notching the program's first Rose Bowl win since 1917. In 2012, despite the loss over several key players, including QB Darron Thomas and RB LaMichael James, the Ducks could be in position to exceed last season's success.

Offense:

Last year, Oregon averaged 522.8 yards of offense and 46.1 points per game - record numbers that Duck fans are becoming accustomed to under Kelly.

2012 may produce similar efficiency, as redshirt freshman (sensation?) Marcus Mariota takes over under center, and Kenjon Barner assumes the starting role at RB. Also playing a key role in the Ducks' offense is the multi-purpose speedster De'Anthony Thomas.

To me, the biggest question mark for Oregon's offense is at TE, as the Ducks must replace David Paulson, who was a productive fixture at the position the past two seasons. But if we have learned one thing about Oregon under Chip Kelly, it's that they replace departing talent with equal or better talent.

The schedule is favorable, too, which will help as the offense find it's rhythm. More on that later, though.

Defense:

The Ducks return 7 starters on defense, and there is a pretty strong consensus that the unit will be much improved over the 2011 edition - notably in the pass rush.

The stars of the D are S John Boyett (he's been in Eugene FOREVER, hasn't he?), and LB Michael Clay. DE Dion Jordan could be poised to lead the Pac-12 in sacks in 2012, after nabbing 7.5 last year.

Oregon also has its two starting CB's returning, as well as two more players along the defensive line. Freshman Arik Armstead will see the field, and expectations are that he will be a factor early and often.

The Schedule:

Move along, nothing to see here. Nothing, but a November showdown with USC in Los Angeles. Other than that, the Ducks shouldn't be challenged all season in the Pac-12 except maybe against Washington, but that game will be in the House That Nike Built, and it would be a long-shot for the Huskies to steal that one on the road.

The non-conference schedule is one that makes SEC teams jealous. Simply put, the Ducks should have no problem notching their 5th straight 10-win season.

Best Case:

The Ducks go undefeated, beat USC - likely twice - and secure a berth in the BCS Championship game in Miami, De'Anthony Thomas wins the Heisman, everyone loves the uniform combinations, and Phil Knight keeps the cash flow strong.

In all seriousness, even if Oregon were to lose at USC in the regular season, it would be difficult to envision them losing a second time (and 3rd in a row overall) to USC in the conference championship game. Best case, this team wins the Pac-12 and plays for a national title.

Worst Case:

The Ducks are lulled to sleep by their early-season schedule, and get tripped up by Washington the week after narrowly beating WSU in a shootout, causing them to finish second in the North. They proceed to lose at USC in November, costing them an at-large BCS game.

Phil Knight gets pissed at the "underachieving", and stops bankrolling the program.

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For more great coverage of the Oregon Ducks, visit Addicted To Quack.

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