Although everything may seem calm and pleasant on the surface for the Oregon Ducks eight weeks into the college football season, the waters are about to get much rougher for the perennial BCS hopeful.
The Ducks' soft schedule is beginning to stiffen, creating opportunities for their flaws—which have gone largely unnoticed through the first two months of the season—to be magnified.
Here I present the biggest factors that will ultimately prevent the Oregon Ducks from running the table in 2012.
Although you would never know by looking at his numbers this fall (1,347 passing yards and 16 touchdowns), Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is just a freshman.
Sure, the Hawaii native has yet to cost the Ducks a football game, but then again Oregon has yet to find itself in a tight game. Mariota and company have played a relatively weak opening schedule and haven't been tested yet this fall.
Despite the lack of challenging competition, though, the Ducks still rank just 83rd in the nation in passing offense this season.
Mariota's lack of experience in big-time college football games makes him a liability for Chip Kelly in his quest to achieve a perfect season in 2012. Oregon still has road games at top-ranked USC and Oregon State this year.
The 6'4" signal-caller has looked poised so far, but there's still lots of football left to be played. It's only a matter of time before his inexperience rears its ugly head.
Oregon's defense isn't terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but it lacks the strength that we see in defensive units across the SEC. Let's face it, the Ducks aren't going to win the line of scrimmage against Alabama or Florida.
Instead, Chip Kelly's D relies on its speed to shut down opponents and change the course of the game.
Thus far in 2012, the Ducks are allowing a tad over 20 points per game, but have yet to play a team ranked inside the Top 20. In its last three wins, Oregon has surrendered a combined 68 points. Alabama hasn't allowed more than 58 points all season long.
The Ducks' defense has been good enough thanks to their high-powered offense, but what happens when the offense struggles and the defense is called upon to keep Oregon in the game?
Of course the biggest factor in preventing the success of any team is its schedule. For Oregon, its schedule is back-loaded and features the potential of having to play USC twice this fall.
The Ducks and Trojans will meet in Los Angeles on November 3, but then will likely face again in the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game in early December. The Trojans are certainly beatable, but twice in less than a month?
That may be asking too much of the Ducks.
The month of November also includes road games at California and Oregon State, as well as a home matchup with Stanford. Clearly the cupcakes are in the the Ducks' rear-view mirror at this point, and it's time to see what they're truly made of.
It will take more than a freshman quarterback and a decent defense to propel Oregon to 13-0 this season. Even then, the Ducks would still have to rip off a BCS bowl game win over formidable competition in order to finish the year a perfect 14-0.
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