Oregon has fallen from the ranks of the national elite over the past three years, but the Ducks could get back into College Football Playoff contention in 2018 with likely the nation’s easiest schedule.
SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks have yet to release win totals for the 2018 college football season, but I’m here to tell you that betting Oregon to go ‘over’ whatever number it gets (8.5?) seems like a wise wager right now as long as quarterback Justin Herbert stays healthy and because of a hugely favorable schedule.
The Ducks have fallen from their perch as an annual national title contender since losing the championship game following the 2014 season to Ohio State. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was Heisman Trophy-winning QB Marcus Mariota’s final season in Eugene. The Ducks have finished 9-4, 4-8 and, last year, 7-6 since. They also will be on their third head coach in three years in Mario Cristobal. The Ducks’ former offensive coordinator actually took over for last season’s Las Vegas Bowl loss to Boise State when Willie Taggart bolted after a season for Florida State. The Pac-1, by the way, finished 1-8 in bowl games, which is the worst single-season bowl record in history for a Power 5 conference (minimum five games).
The good news for Cristobal is he has one of the best returning quarterbacks in the country in dual-threat Justin Herbert. Last year in eight games, Herbert (he missed five injured and part of a sixth), completed 67.5 percent of his passes for 1,983 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 183 yards and four scores. Herbert is +3500 at 5Dimes to win the Heisman Trophy. Oregon did lose superstar running back Royce Freeman to graduation but could return as many as seven starters on offense and seven on defense.
The school also was able to keep highly-regarded defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt. Often when a head coach leaves, so do the coordinators. Oregon gave Leavitt a nice raise. UO allowed 29.0 points in 2017, not exactly great but much better than the 41.4 ppg in 2016.
The biggest reason I’m on the Oregon bandwagon, other than Herbert, is the schedule, which is about as easy as one could ask for playing in a Power 5 conference. There’s no question that the Ducks will enter Pac-12 play at 3-0 because their ridiculous non-conference opponents, all at home, are Bowling Green, Portland State and San Jose State. Me and 10 friends might be able to go 2-1 against that slate. BGSU, a MAC school, was 2-10 last year. Portland State, a Big Sky FCS program, was 0-11. SJSU, a Mountain West team, was 2-11.
In Pac-12 play, both of Oregon’s biggest challengers in the North Division, Stanford and Washington, visit Eugene. Southern Cal is not on the regular-season schedule. UCLA is but has to replace Josh Rosen and of course has former Oregon coach Chip Kelly now in charge. The toughest road dates figure to be at Arizona, which brings back dynamic QB Khalil Tate (but also has a new coach in Kevin Sumlin) and Nov. 10 at Utah.
Oregon is +10000 at 5Dimes to win the national title. I’m not ready to go that far, but reaching the Pac-12 title game seems very possible – as does a 10-win regular season, and I’m positive the Ducks won’t be given a win total that high on the college football futures.
Monday, March 19, 2018 9:09 AM CDT