No. 20 – Oregon Ducks Season Preview

A potential No. 1 overall pick leads the way for the Oregon Ducks in 2021. Kayvon Thibodeaux was one of the top-rated recruits in the country in 2019. Thibodeaux has been electric since coming to Eugene, winning Pac 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year accolades that season and earning First Team All-Pac 12 accolades last season. Now, he is the defensive leader of the team, and he will look to restore Oregon to glory after a strange 2020 campaign that saw the Ducks finish 4-3 and win their conference but lose their division.

Oregon Regular Season Win Total

Over 9 Wins -130

Under 9 Wins +100

OFFENSE

Former Boston College starter Anthony Brown will be the pivot man for Oregon’s offense. Brown played sparingly behind Tyler Shough in 2020, but he has plenty of experience after starting most of his three seasons with the Eagles. He isn’t the most accurate quarterback, yet he has improved his accuracy by a few percentage points each season to become a legitimate passer. Brown does a great job avoiding sacks, but he hasn’t run a lot since his freshman season.

Even without Brown’s legs, this would be one of the best ground games in the Pac 12. C.J. Verdell ran for over 1,000 yards in both 2018 and 2019, and he is back after suffering an injury last season. Travis Dye showed the run game is in good hands in Verdell’s absence, averaging 6.9 YPC. Sean Dollars has some decent experience too, so Oregon should be able to run on most of its foes.

Seven of the eight leading receivers from 2020 return this year. Johnny Johnson III is the most proven of the bunch as a senior, but Devon Williams, Jaylon Redd, and Mycah Pittman can all play too. That will keep Brown in good hands.

This offensive line will be strong too. Four of the five starters from last season return, and Steven Jones saw some good experience after Penei Sewell opted out. Center Alex Forsyth is the leader and earned all-conference accolades in 2020.

DEFENSE

There are some real worries for this defense outside of Kayvon Thibodeaux. Andy Avalos left to become the head coach at Boise State, so Tim DeRuyter is the new defensive coordinator. DeRuyter’s Fresno State progressively got worse over his five seasons on campus, and he might not have had much of an impact in Cal’s great defensive scheme either.

Thibodeaux led the Ducks with 6.5 sacks in 2020. He is a disruptive force along the line, and that allowed Mase Funa to have a solid year on the other side of him. Noah Sewell and Isaac Slade-Matautia shined at linebacker, but the interior defensive line is a bit of a concern.

Four sophomores are projected to start in Oregon’s secondary. While the Ducks were able to give some of their freshmen experience in the back last season, this unit does not have the experience needed to shut down opposing quarterbacks. That could really hurt Oregon since the Pac 12 has some quality quarterbacks.

SCHEDULE

Oregon has a formidable road schedule. The Ducks only play five road games, but three of those tilts are against preseason opponents ranked in the Top 25. They are underdogs on the road against Ohio State on September 11, and they must face Washington and Utah in November. It won’t be easy to go to Stanford in early October either. However, Oregon stands a good chance of sweeping its home games.

PREDICTION

Mario Cristobal has done a great job recruiting at Oregon. The Ducks are better positioned to challenge in the Pac 12 North than any other team given their recruiting, and they hammered Utah to win the 2019 Pac 12 title. Oregon’s schedule probably precludes a double-digit win season though, making the under the better option.

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