Heading into the 2014 season, a lot is being expected of the No. 3 ranked Oregon Ducks. With nine starters returning on an offense that electrified the college football world and led the team to an 11-2 mark in 2013, the Ducks could make some serious noise once again.
The South Dakota Coyotes aren’t exactly a powerhouse in the FCS, but don’t sleep on a team like this to surprise a powerhouse like Oregon in an early-season bout. While the Ducks may already be looking forward to a week two matchup with Michigan State, the Coyotes will be solely focused on their own Super Bowl with Oregon.
As stated earlier, the Ducks return nine starters on offense and Marcus Mariota is the main component returning. The talented quarterback threw for 3,665 yards and 31 touchdowns with just four interceptions in 2013 as he could have been the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft had he left. All five starters on the offensive line are returning along with two top running backs in Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner. Oregon does, however, lose its top two receivers from 2013 — very inexperienced, but talented, group.
South Dakota doesn’t exactly have any stars on the offensive side of things seeing as it only averaged about 339 yards and 17.4 points per game last season. While the Coyotes were consistently outscored and out-gained, they still return some key offensive talent. Quarterback Kevin Earl returns as he led the team with 1,920 yards and nine touchdowns along with nine interceptions in 2013. The team also returns its top three rushers, including the leader from 2013, Trevor Bouma.
Defensively, the Coyotes would have ranked near the middle of the pack in the FBS with their statistics from 2013. They allowed about 350 yards and 25 points per game. On the other side, the Ducks ranked 13th in the nation in points allowed per game and 37th in total yards allowed per contest.
South Dakota will travel to Oregon to take on the Ducks at 10:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, Aug. 30. The game will be broadcasted on Pac-12 Network.
PREDICTION: South Dakota 3, Oregon 63
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.