College Football Preseason Top 25: #4 Oregon

Al Dannity | Updated Aug 22, 2012

LaMichael James is gone but the Ducks look as strong as ever. Al Dannity preview Oregon’s chances in 2012.

The schedule The Ducks kick off 2012 at home to reigning Sun Belt champions Arkansas State. Home dates with Fresno State and Tennessee Tech follow before Oregon dives into Pac-12 play. A home date with Arizona is followed by a trip to face Washington State before the first big test of the season as the Ducks take on Washington in Eugene. Trips to Arizona State and a home game with Colorado follow before the Ducks finish with a tough final stretch. Consecutive road trips to a loaded USC and a defensively sound Cal precede a home date with Stanford. The regular season closes, as ever, with the Civil War against Oregon State.

The players The Ducks are the only team in the nation that can lose their starting running back and starting quarterback and look stronger. De’Anthony Thomas is set for a breakout year after a dazzling display in the Rose Bowl and he leads a group of 7 returning starters on offense. Depth is a massive weapon for the Ducks on offense and their back-ups have plenty of touches to ensure they will be ready to make an impact in 2012. Defensively the secondary is a question but otherwise the Ducks look stout with 8 returning starters. Punter Jackson Rice was All Pac-12 last year and kicker Alejandro Maldonado is also a returning starter.

The outlook The Ducks’ season will likely come down to two games and both of them will be against USC. Barring any massive shocks, and yes the Pac-12 has a tendency to deliver some, the Ducks and Trojans should win the conference’s North and South divisions. That would set up a championship game, and possible BCS National Championship play-in game, at the home of the team with the better record. This is where that first match-up against the Trojans becomes oh so important. Asking the Ducks to march on Troy and come out victorious is a lot. Asking them to do it after already losing in SoCal is probably too much. To win the Pac-12 and guarantee, at the very least, a return to the Rose Bowl the Ducks must strike first. This Oregon team may have the best offense in the nation but running the table for the second time in three years looks a tall order. I like Oregon to destroy almost all before them but just come up short of winning the Pac-12.

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