Fans in Eugene have been spoiled by the play of their Oregon Ducks over the past two decades, so when the team suffered its lowest win total since 1991, Mark Helfrich was shown the door. All Helfrich did in his first three seasons was lead the Ducks to 33 victories and the CFP Championship game in 2014. But the Ducks collapsed last season winning just four games, its fewest since 1991. In an attempt to get the program back to the top of the Pac-12 standings in the shortest time possible, OU turned to Willie Taggart to find a new direction.
2016 Record: 4-8 SU, 2-9 ATS, 7-5 O/U
2017 Regular Season Win Total: 8
National Championship Odds: +10000
Odds To Win Pac-12: +1500
Looking back on the season there was one major area that caused so much concern. The Ducks just couldn’t stop anyone and owned one of the worst Power 5 defensive units in recent memory. It wasn’t just a handful of games that got out of hand and skewed the numbers it was a poor showing week in and week out. Many times it looked like the Ducks were playing shorthanded on that side of the football.
It started with a season opening win over FCS UC Davis. The Ducks won the game handily, which they should have, 53-28. But the Aggies were able to score four touchdowns and amass nearly 400 yards of offense. If a not-so-good FCS team could do that against the Ducks, imagine what some of the FBS power teams could do.
In a five-game losing streak after starting the year 2-0, the Ducks allowed 35 points to Nebraska, 41 to Colorado, 51 to Washington State, 70 to Washington and 52 to Cal. The offense was able to score 35 points per game during that run, but it just wasn’t enough to keep up with a defense that allowed the most touchdowns in FBS while ranking 126th out of 128 teams in total yards and points allowed.
It wasn’t your typical Oregon fast-break offense last season, but it was still very good. The Ducks averaged 265 yards per game through the air and 226 on the ground for a respectable 491 total to rank 16th nationally. They also scored an average of 35.4 points per game and have many of the same characters back, including a quarterback who took over the position midway through the season.
Big things are expected from Justin Herbert, who threw for nearly 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns with only four interceptions after not playing in the first four games. He is the unquestioned starter heading into 2017 and he has an abundance of playmakers to work with. Royce Freeman has rushed for over 4,100 yards in his career and nearly reached 1,000 last season. The offense should be better with the development of Herbert and an offensive line that grew up in a hurry last year.
Now, if the Ducks can get the defense straightened out they just might challenge Washington and Stanford for the top spot in the North. Brady Hoke wasn’t the answer and Taggart brought in former Colorado coordinator Jim Leavitt to run the defense. The group was awful last year and there is nowhere to go but up. How the Ducks do in 2017 will depend on this group and if they can turn it around, there’s no reason why the Ducks can’t contend.
Week 1: Oregon vs. Southern Utah, Saturday, September 2
Week 2: Oregon vs. Nebraska, Saturday, September 9
Week 3: Oregon at Wyoming, Saturday, September 16
Week 4: Oregon at Arizona State, Saturday, September 23
Week 5: Oregon vs. Cal, Saturday, September 30
Week 6: Oregon vs. Washington State, Saturday, October 7
Week 7: Oregon at Stanford, Saturday, October 14
Week 8: Oregon at UCLA, Saturday, October 21
Week 9: Oregon vs. Utah, Saturday, October 28
Week 10: Oregon at Washington, Saturday, November 4
Week 11: OFF
Week 12: Oregon vs. Arizona, Saturday, November 18
Week 13: Oregon vs. Oregon State, Saturday, November 25
|SEC Conference||Big 10 Conference|
|ACC Conference||Big 12 Conference|
|Pac 12 Conference||Big East Conference|
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