Oregon Football: Fourth Time's a Charm? What Chip Must Do to Win Coaching Honors

Joe PenkalaCorrespondent IJuly 10, 2012

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02:  Head coach Chip Kelly of the Oregon Ducks looks on while taking on the Wisconsin Badgers at the 98th Rose Bowl Game on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

As Chip Kelly prepares to enter into his fourth year as Oregon head coach, he once again has a team stacked with talent, and those players have bought into his system.

Over the course of his first three years, Kelly has taken the Ducks to two Rose Bowls and one national title game. Kelly has also led the Ducks to three straight conference championships and has kept them in the top 15 for most of his career.

When the offseason began this year, Kelly was tempted to ink a large deal with Tampa Bay and take his talents to the NFL, but said he returned to Oregon for some "unfinished business."

While a national title would certainly wrap up any loose ends that Kelly may feel are out there, one other thing that has eluded the head coach is the honor of being named coach of the year. With the 2012 season just around the corner, the opportunity for Kelly to win this award is there.

Following the 2011 season, Oregon has lost star running back LaMichael James and two year starting quarterback Darron Thomas. The loss of these two players was well publicized, and fans and media alike are waiting to see how Kelly is able to respond to their departure.

Since taking over at Oregon, Kelly has been fortunate to have Jeremiah Masoli already in place and Thomas in the wings. Now, Kelly is under the gun as another transition takes place in Eugene, where the future at quarterback is uncertain.

If Kelly and the Ducks can withstand the offseason loss of players like James and Thomas and make another run like they did in 2010, Kelly would immediately move to the top of the list for the coach of the year honor.

One other factor that could help out Kelly is USC.

USC is being touted by most media outlets as a top-3 team in the nation. In 2012, the Ducks head to Southern California to take on the Trojans and many believe there will be a second meeting between the two teams in the Pac-12 title game. Should Kelly and the Ducks be able to win not once, but twice over the Trojans, it would be an achievement that would put Kelly over the top.

While fans continue to count the days between now and the start of the season, the Ducks will soon begin preparing for another outstanding season. By now, most know that the players have bought into Chip Kelly, and maybe this will be the year that the rest of the nation buys into him as well.