The official Crystal Ball Run Preseason Top 10 rolls on the No. 4 Oregon Ducks. Last year, the Ducks managed to overcome an off-season of off-the-field turmoil and sprint their way to the national championship game. A year later, the summer has been no less eventful.
Crystal Ball Run Preseason Top 10
No. 4 – Oregon Ducks
Oregon in a Word: Befuddling
In the last two years, Oregon Coach Chip Kelly's calling card, the "Blur" offense, has left defensive coordinators looking like Metta World Peace trying to soak up a lecture from Sarah Palin on the ramifications of the Teapot Dome Scandal. The speed with which the Ducks jet to the line of scrimmage and snap the ball not only challenges the stamina of a defense, but its ability to get organized and react to what the offense is doing, too.
On the other hand, if we are to believe the mounting evidence against Kelly in L'Affaire Lyles, he's as stunningly incompetent at cheating as he is brilliant at the chalkboard.
Why Oregon Will Live Up to Billing:
The key components of last season's explosive offense – quarterback Darron Thomas and running backs LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner – return from last season's appearance in the BCS title game a year wiser to Kelly's ways. With the additions of Lache Seastrunk and De'Anthony Thomas, this team won't be hurting for threats coming out of the backfield.
On defense, "speedy" All-American cornerback Cliff Harris leads an experienced secondary, which is a plus in a league with passers like Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley.
Why Oregon Will Disappoint:
Normally, I'd point to the significant losses on the offensive line and defensive front seven, but let's get real.
The fiasco with Lyles will hang over the Ducks like a stale fart all season. The "talent scout" has already given the NCAA plenty of ammo to levy sanctions on UO. Between Lyles jacking his jaws and the potential Pandora's box that investigators may be opening in Eugene, it's tough to see how this situation won't get worse the longer this drags on. It could even cost Kelly his job before the calendar runs out.
Distractions aside, Oregon's schedule last season set up so well. This year? Not so much, with a trip to Stanford in conference play and the season opener at JerryWorld versus LSU.
Key Game: LSU (Sept. 3)
The conference slate offers few games likely to scare the Ducks. A November trip to the Farm looks like the Pac-12 game of the year, and the conference opener at Arizona could be tricky. Otherwise, UO should be a solid favorite against the rest of the league
The real key game for Oregon is the first one. A win in a huge opener like this can propel a team through its whole season. Of course, a loss likely means the end of any national championship hopes, introducing a tailspin possibility for the Ducks.
On the Spot: Anthony Wallace
The talented freshman Wallace will probably step in for the latest of the Matthews clan to make the NFL, Casey. Matthews was the cornerstone of the Oregon D in '10, the surest tackler the Ducks had. That's a big hole for a rookie to fill.
Given the turmoil currently surrounding The Team That Nike Built, Oregon could easily turn out to be one of this season's bigger flops. If Kelly gets his walking papers...
Yet, even if the amateurism police dropped any inquiry into the UO program tomorrow, the chances that the Ducks match last season's success are slim. A tougher road to hoe, losses on the offensive line and a defense that is, on balance, pretty green – those are national championship killers.
Becoming the first-ever champs of the Pac-12 wouldn't be too shabby, though.
Best Case Scenario: 13-1, Pac-12 champs, Rose Bowl
Worst Case Scenario: Probation
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