Oregon Football: What Will Define Success for Mark Helfrich in 2013?

Jeff Bell@@JrayBellCorrespondent IMarch 20, 2013

Long gone are the days of Oregon football fans being pleased with 7-5 seasons. Heck, nobody is crossing their fingers for a berth in the Sun Bowl anymore, either.

With Chip Kelly at the helm of one of the nation's fastest-rising programs, fans knew exactly what to expect each Saturday; a high-octane, explosive offense that constantly put defenses on their heels and scoreboards on life support.

You could count on one hand the number of times an Oregon team failed to show up during Kelly's tenure, and you'd only need two more fingers to equal the losses suffered by the Ducks during his four years as head coach.

There were bumps and bruises along the way, as evidenced by Oregon's 2-2 BCS record and numerous offseason incidents. But overall, Chip Kelly took Oregon from a fluky team that could occasionally challenge for time in the spotlight, to an elite squad that became the toughest opponent on everybody else's schedule.

It's safe to say Mark Helfrich, the offensive coordinator during Kelly's reign, has a lot to live up to.

The team is more loaded than ever and expectations won't dip in the slightest despite the coaching change. Still, replacing the head man creates questions that are unavoidable, and expecting things to not miss a single beat may be slightly optimistic.

So the question then becomes, what will define success for Helfrich's program in 2013?


1) Double-Digit Wins

This one is not even negotiable. Taking a look at the schedule, I see only four games that the Ducks could conceivably lose: at Washington, home vs. UCLA, at Stanford and at Arizona.

That's being extremely conservative, however, as most fans would be pretty disappointed with a loss at Arizona (considering their QB change). And as much as the Huskies get hyped each offseason, nothing indicates that next season will be the first time in 10 years that Washington can take down the Ducks.

That leaves us with UCLA and Stanford. The Bruins visit Autzen in a game that should feature a lot of points, but you have to consider Oregon a decent favorite to get the win at home.

So we arrive at the Cardinal, which has twice ruined Oregon's national championship hopes (the first time being in 2001). While this game is probably a toss-up at this point, remember what Oregon was able to do in 2010 and 2011 to Stanford, when they had a guy named Andrew Luck at quarterback. It won't be an easy game, but it's definitely winnable.

If that analysis sounds cocky, name another game that you can honestly see Oregon losing. Barring a slew of injuries or other major problems, Mark Helfrich must lead this team to at least 10 wins in year one.


2) BCS Bowl Berth

Raise your hands if reaching any bowl game not currently part of the BCS would leave you satisfied as a Duck fan?

I think everybody can understand the difficulties that Mark Helfrich faces with Chip Kelly off to the NFL. But considering that Kelly took the Ducks to a BCS bowl in each of his four years as head coach, Helfrich ought to be held to the same standard.

Plus, the team is a heck of a lot more talented now than they were in 2009.

There may be some questions at running back as well as wide receiver, but the defense as a whole is improved and the offense line has NFL talent across the board.

So I'll repeat what I wrote about the double-digit wins; unless some major injuries occur, anything less than a BCS bowl is a failure next season.


3) Beat Northwest Rivals

This one isn't complicated, and shouldn't elicit much argument either. The Ducks must beat Oregon State, Washington State and Washington next season, or fans won't be very happy.

Plus, failing to beat any of these teams probably eliminates a shot at the conference championship as well as a BCS bowl berth.

The Ducks owned the northwest under Kelly, and there's no reason that next season should be any different under Helfrich.


4) See Improvement in Young Stars

The biggest key to any successful college football program is the development of its young stars.

That begins and ends with head coach Mark Helfrich and the rest of his staff. With the slew of young talent currently on the roster, Helfrich can ensure continuing success by helping these players improve.

Guys like Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Byron Marshall, Bralon Addison, Erick Dargan and many others have all the talent in the world.

But they must continue to realize that talent and have it show on game day if next season is to be considered a success.


5) "Win the Day" doesn't miss a beat

Each of the first four items can be accomplished simply by continuing Chip Kelly's "Win the Day" philosophy.

It's what has helped this team reach the plateau of college football's elite and it's the only way the crystal football can remain attainable.

"Win the Day" made sure the team showed up ready to play each and every day, whether it was Saturday night in the Coliseum or Tuesday morning in the Mo Center.

If Mark Helfrich continues to win each day with the way he recruits, prepares and coaches his team, fans should have little doubt that 2013 will be an absolute success.


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