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Oregon Football: Where Will the Program Be in 5 Years?

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Oregon Football: Where Will the Program Be in 5 Years?
Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Coach Helfrich will still be a Duck in five years.

If this question were posed to a member of the Autzen faithful, perhaps "coming off several titles" would be the response. If given to a Husky die-hard, you might receive a simple, two-word answer: "under sanctions."

Neither scenario is completely out of the realm of possibility, but we're looking for realistic answers, so I'm starting more in the middle.

 

1) Mark Helfrich Will Be in His Fifth Season

This may seem like most obvious answer, but there are some who question how long he'll remain at Oregon, for a variety of reasons.

It's possible that the Ducks will falter over the next few seasons, and after posting just seven wins in 2016, Helfrich will be ousted. It's also possible that Helfrich will lead Oregon to its first-ever national championship, and an intriguing NFL offer will lure him away.

But I think he'll remain at Oregon because a) it's unlikely that the Ducks will fall off the map so quickly, and b) he truly seems like the kind of guy who has found his ultimate destination. Helfrich is a local guy, and if he finds success with this team, it's hard to imagine any other job, even one at the NFL level, giving him more fulfillment.

 

2) The Ducks Will Have Won a National Championship Between Now and Then

"That would complete my entire sports life," says the glass half-full fan. "Just one?" asks the hard-to-please guy.

Over the past few seasons the Ducks have fielded some of the best teams in their program's history, and just one of them made it to the title game. Despite the 2011 and 2012 squads being perhaps a kick or two away from getting their own shot to play for it all, they ultimately came up short.

Point being, it's really, really hard to get to the title game, let alone win it. Alabama has a football factory down south, and Ohio State appears to be reemerging as a national power once again. USC won't stay down forever, UCLA is on the rise and Texas A&M will be a tough out as long as Johnny Manziel is around.

Steve Dykes/Getty Images
The man who will lead the Ducks to a title.

But I do think the Ducks will break through at some point in the next five seasons. And I think it will probably be in the next couple years, with Mariota at the helm. The team simply has too much talent right now, and although other teams like Alabama and Texas A&M look scary, the Ducks are pretty frightening themselves.

 

3) There Will Be at Least One Season in Which the Ducks Fail to Reach 10 Wins

Scary thought, huh? But keep in mind that while 10 wins has become the norm in Eugene, it was an extreme rarity prior to 2009.

Oregon has weathered the dismissal of one starting quarterback, the decision by another to leave early and a variety of off-the-field distractions to become a national power. I don't think reaching 10-plus wins for another five years in a row will be so easy.

There will be more quarterback transitions and inevitably a few hyped players that prove to be little more than roster space. I don't know that this will come next season or the one after.

But perhaps the transition from Mariota to whomever succeeds him won't be smooth. Maybe the Ducks will fail to land some bulk in the middle in recruiting and have a gaping hole in the defense for a couple years. Or maybe an upcoming senior class will be so large and talented that it would be impossible to make up for the losses the following season.

Whatever the case, I think the Ducks will have at least one down (a relative term here) year in the next five years.

 

4) There Will Be a Heisman in the Trophy Case Along with the Crystal Ball

It seems like a decent bet that if a Duck were to win the Heisman Trophy, it would probably be either De'Anthony Thomas or Marcus Mariota.

Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Is there a Heisman Trophy in the Black Mamba's future?
That's exactly what I'm banking on with this prediction, and though Thomas Tyner will be waiting in the wings, I think Mariota will have an excellent chance to win it this season or the next.

He's so polished for such a young quarterback, his accuracy is off the charts and the talent at receiver is growing quickly.

Of course, if Thomas ends up getting 15 carries a game along with seven catches and a couple kickoff return opportunities, he'll be in the Heisman talk as well.

 

5) Washington Will Beat Oregon

To the dark side, I have gone! Unfaithful, I am!

Alas, Duck fans, the winning streak cannot go on forever. It has to end at some point, and these next five years are as good as any to think the Huskies can end the streak.

This year will be an interesting matchup mainly due to the hostile environment, but I don't think it ends in 2013. It probably won't end in 2014 either because I'll be a dead man before Washington wins in Autzen.

But I'm looking at 2015, when Mariota has likely opted for the NFL, as the year Oregon will finally lose to Washington. The Huskies will probably have a veteran quarterback at the helm, talent to compete with the Ducks and on top of it all, their home stadium to play the game in.

Will it continue to be a one-sided rivalry (favoring Oregon) beyond that? Perhaps, and I can't go as far as to say the Huskies will completely turn the tables. But again, the streak cannot go on forever and the end point is going to come at some point in the next five years.

6) Reconstruction to Seat 70,000 in Autzen Stadium Will Have Begun

This last one simply serves the purpose of not ending on a sour note.

I think at some point in the next five years, whether it's plans being drawn out or actual construction beginning, Autzen will undergo initial renovations to expand seating capacity.

If designers and engineers can manage to keep that up-close-and-personal feel, it will truly be the loudest stadium in the country.

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