Oregon Ducks

Tied with the Washington Huskies as +130 favorites to win the Pac-12 North with season win total odds of 9 at online sportsbooks, could the Quack Attack be back in 2019-20? Linemakers currently suggest as such with Mario Cristobal’s kids looking to build off a 9-4 campaign that saw them snap a two-game postseason winless streak with an ugly 7-6 triumph over the Michigan State Spartans in the Redbox Bowl. Oregon returns a veteran squad and gets Heisman hopeful Justin Herbert back under center after forgoing the NFL Draft and potentially being the No. 1 pick to call the shots in Eugene for his senior season. Whether that decision was the right one or not will be put to the test right out of the chute with the team set to open against the Auburn Tigers at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Win that game, and the Ducks will take a giant step forward in possibly returning to the College Football Playoff since making their lone appearance five seasons ago.

The Ducks figured to be a solid squad this upcoming season, but once Herbert announced he was returning expectations were taken to a completely different level. How could they not? He’s got a veteran offensive line blocking for him, excellent weapons in the backfield that can both run and catch passes and fabulous targets to get the pigskin to through the air even though leading receiver Dillon Mitchell bolted early for the next level. Oregon ranked No. 40 overall and dented the scoreboard for just under 35 points per game. For the offense to truly take that next step forward, the running game needs to take it to a higher level. As experienced the O-Line is, there’s no excuse for the unit not to dramatically improve upon the 4.4 yards per carry averaged last season. Herbert only threw 8 interceptions to go along with 29 TD last season, but completed less than 60 percent of his passes. If the ground game excels and he’s able to better that mark into the low 60s, the sky will be the limit as to how potent this unit can be!

Jim Leavitt was let go after the program went out and poached Andy Avalos from Boise State to run the defense. Along with having a number of returning starters from last year’s semi-decent unit back, the recruiting class is loaded with top end talent that will fit right into his hard to read attacking style. Keep an eye out for the trio of Kayvon Thibodeaux, Mase Funa and Keyon Ware-Hudson with all three expected to be huge playmakers for the Ducks’ defense starting this season. The front wall will be anchored by junior Josh Scott while the unit’s leading tackler from a year ago in Troy Dye spearheads the linebacker corps. Though Oregon’s secondary conceded nearly 242 yards per game ( No. 83 ) and at least two passing touchdowns eight times, it picked off 17 passes and gets all four main contributors back for the upcoming season. The pieces are all in place for it to be a truly memorable season on this side of the ball.

Eugene has been craving a national championship caliber team since Marcus Mariota bolted for the NFL. As it stands right now, the Ducks look to be the Pac-12’s best option to make a run at the CFP with it veteran laden, owning excellent coaching and having a recruiting class on par with some of the best programs in the country. All that said, the Quack Attack still has to show it’s improved upon the shortcomings that saw it drop a number of headscratchers a season ago. While the schedule doesn’t necessarily look terrible on paper, the Pac-12 looks to be dramatically improved. A great indicator as to whether Oregon truly has it in it to be a title contender would be to watch Herbert’s Heisman Trophy odds as the season unfolds. If they get dramatically shorter than the 20-1 return currently offered up at top rated sportsbooks, we just might have a dark horse on our hands!