Oregon's Fiesta Bowl victory over Kansas State was more than just a big win for this year. It also showed that the Ducks should be top contenders for next season's BCS National Championship.
This was an impressive season for the Ducks from beginning to end. The team finished with a 12-1 record and was one overtime loss away from playing for the national championship.
The offense was arguably the best in the country, averaging just less than 50 points per game. Only once was the unit held below 35 points.
Even the defense exceeded expectations, allowing less than 22 points per game to be rated as one of the top scoring units in the nation.
However, the most impressive thing is the team's youth. If everything goes according to plan, it should be even better next year.
Offensively, the squad will once again be led by Marcus Mariota, only now he will have an entire year of experience on his resume. For a player that had the fifth-best passer rating in the country as a freshman, this is a scary thought.
While Kenjon Barner is set to graduate, it will allow sophomore De'Anthony Thomas to get more playing time after finishing third in the nation with 7.6 yards per carry.
These stars were on full display during the Fiesta Bowl. Mariota totaled three touchdowns, while Thomas opened the game with a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
In addition, the defense that held Kansas State to only 17 points will return most of its players, including the whole secondary.
While there will be a number of tough contenders for a title next season including Alabama, Ohio State and even Notre Dame once again, Oregon has enough experience in key spots to avoid a letdown game like it had this year.
The only thing that could hold this team back is a coaching change. Many are projecting that Chip Kelly will leave for the NFL following this successful season.
However, the team is even prepared for this worst-case scenario. Gene Schroeder of USA Today reported that offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich will likely take over if Kelly decides to leave.
The continuity of the system will allow the players to keep up the recent success even if there is a change in the staff.
Oregon thoroughly dominated one of the top teams in the country in the Fiesta Bowl. With an even stronger team next season, the Ducks should finally be able to break through and win a national title.
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