College Football Preview: The 2014 Oregon Ducks
2014 College Football Preview
Odds to Win National Championship: 10-1 See the Latest Odds
Overview: The Oregon Ducks streak of BCS bowls was snapped at four, but head coach Mark Helfrich proved that the program is in great hands even with Chip Kelly calling shots in the NFL. The Ducks finished 11-2, which was their sixth straight season of double-digit wins, and they won their bowl game for the third consecutive season. Oregon has now been one of the more consistent football teams of the last decade and fans expect nothing less moving forward with the amount of talent that is coming in and out of Eugene. There are no more concerns about the head coach, now the focus is on reaching one of those four playoff spots.
Offense: When was the last time Oregon had to worry about its offense? I don’t recall. Anyway, the Ducks offense will once again fly high as long as quarterback Marcus Mariota can remain heathy. Mariota spent much of last season in a knee brace but was still able to pass for 3,665 yards and produce 40 total touchdowns. Mariota is a Heisman candidate and is more than capable of making sure the Ducks score quickly and often. While De’Anthony Thomas has moved on, running back Byron Marshall did rush for more than 1,000 yards scored 14 touchdowns last season. He’ll remain the starter in the backfield. The Ducks also return all five of their starting offensive linemen. If there is a concern for Oregon’s offense it will be at wide receiver, as the program lost its top four wideouts from a year ago. However, with the amount of talent on this unit and the fact Oregon has led the Pac-12 in scoring for more than a half a decade, I wouldn’t worry too much.
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Defense: Oregon has done what it can on the defensive side of the ball to improve its overall size, as the Ducks usually struggle against bigger and more physical opponents. One player who helps in that department is Tony Washington, who led the Ducks last season with 7.5 sacks. The Ducks also received a gift when cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu decided to return for another season and put the NFL on hold considering he’s one of the top shutdown corners in college. The Ducks also return tackle machine Derrick Malone at linebacker after leading the Ducks with 105 tackles last season. The Ducks are young in the secondary with Terrence Mitchell and Avery Patterson leaving, but this is an overall solid group of players that seems to be getting better each season. The Ducks have improved their defensive numbers for three straight seasons and that trend could continue with the group of guys they have now.
Special Teams: Matt Wogan made seven of nine field goal attempts last season, including three of four in the bowl win over Texas. Wogan is expected to remain the starting field goal kicker and takeover punting duties as well.
Outlook: It’s gotten to the point where anything but a chance to play in the national championship is a failure for the Oregon Ducks. This season it shouldn’t be any different, as the Ducks have a potential Heisman quarterback, a loaded offense around him and a defense that seems to make the big play when it matters most. The Ducks have been a extremely consistent team over the years and are one of the few who has an identity that hasn’t changed. We’ll find out just how good Oregon is in the second week against Michigan State, but this is clearly a team that can secure one of the four playoff bids. I think there’s value to picking the Ducks to win it all with the current odds.