The Rant Sports College Football Top 100 makes its latest stop in Eugene, Oregon to preview the No. 6 Oregon Ducks. Oregon finished the 2012 season with an 12-1 (8-1) record and were a Stanford game-winning field goal away from a potential BCS championship game appearance.
However, the Ducks were faced with a coaching change this offseason as Chip Kelly decided to take over the Philadelphia Eagles‘ coaching vacancy. Oregon opted to fill Kelly’s vacancy with former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, who has been with the program since 2009.
Oregon has huge expectations entering the 2013 season and will look to once again contend for a national championship.
Marcus Mariota returns for his second season as the Ducks’ starting quarterback. He threw for 2,677 yards and 32 touchdowns, while rushing for 752 yards and five touchdowns. Mariota will have a full disposal of athletic offensive weapons, none bigger than De’Anthony Thomas.
Thomas served as a dual threat for the Ducks last season behind senior Kenjon Barner. “The Black Mamba” (not to be confused with Kobe Bryant) totaled 1,757 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns. Thomas is an early favorite to compete for the 2013 Heisman Trophy and will undoubtedly add to an already impressive collegiate career as a junior.
The Ducks will return seven former defensive starters in 2013. Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu enters this season with huge expectations. Ekpre-Olomu started in all of Oregon’s 13 games last season, and recorded four interceptions and 15 pass deflections. He was named to the Pacific-12 all-conference team, as well as earning a third team All-American nomination.
However, the Ducks lack experienced depth from their linebacking corps. Boseko Lokombo is the only returning starter from last season, while Tony Washington, Derrick Malone and Tyson Coleman are also expected to see playing time.
Oregon will open their season against Nicholls, Virginia and Tennessee before entering Pac-12 play. They will face tough matchups against UCLA (Oct. 26), Stanford (Nov. 7) and a season finale with Oregon State (Nov. 29).
While many teams struggle during their first season with a new head coach, Oregon still has one of the most talented teams in the country. Their offense should be very similar with Helfrich’s promotion. The Ducks should remain a top contender late into the regular season and will likely compete for a BCS championship.