Coming into 2009, the Pac-10 teams not named USC will look to dethrone the Trojans and win the Pac-10 outright for the first time in eight years.
Here are five reasons why 2009 will be Oregon’s year:
By far the most experience is returning in the offensive backfield.
LaGarrette Blount is a returning 1,000 yard rusher and a much-improved Jeremiah Masoli should have no problem making plays and moving the Duck offense up and down the field. If the Ducks can find another running back to compliment Blount and Masoli, the rest of the conference will be feeling the pain all year long.
Pete Carroll’s reaction said it all way back in January when his junior quarterback Mark Sanchez declared for the NFL Draft. The Trojans were already losing almost their whole defense and a lackluster offense was going to need a leader for the first half of the year while the defense gained some experience.
The Trojans' schedule is tough, playing Cal, Oregon, and Ohio State on the road.
It seems that the Trojans will lose a couple games this year, especially with those tough games on the road.
This year is the good one in the annual rotation of the round-robin scheduling used by the Pac-10 Conference.
Oregon gets USC, California, Oregon State, and Arizona State at home. It is well-documented that if Oregon can get through September, their season can be special.
A game to look out for is Arizona in Tucson on November 21. The Ducks have struggled against the Wildcats recently and if the game becomes a night game, it becomes a major trap game.
Walter Thurmond and TJ Ward
The Ducks lost Patrick Chung and Jairus Byrd in the secondary, but they have two stellar starters returning.
Thurmond and Ward should be even better this season. Thurmond was hurt all year last year and never truly played at the high level we were used to seeing him at. He still managed 66 tackles and five interceptions in his junior campaign.
Ward is a big-time hitter who had lapses in coverage. He can only improve in the coverage area and will still bring the wood to players who get in his way.
These two will anchor the defense along with linebacker Casey Matthews, as the defense will be breaking in some new names early in the season.
The Pac-10 will be improved from last year, but the conference still doesn’t seem to be as strong as it was in 2007. In 2008, the conference struggled out of league in September going 19-17 and a lackluster 6-7 against ranked teams.
Oregon, California, and USC are the cream of the crop with Oregon State and Arizona a small step behind. The talent in the conference is still a year of experience away from being back to the days of 2007.
As long as the Ducks stay healthy, they will be competitive in 2009. The things above will be of the utmost importance if they plan on having a special season.
The games begin in 86 days.