Hopes are high in Eugene as the college football season approaches us. The Ducks are coming off a Pac 10 championship and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks will return 17 starters from last year’s squad and appear to have the makings to win the Pac 10 again in 2010. The only question the Ducks have will be at quarterback. There is no doubt that Jeremiah Masoli will be missed. Let’s face it; the guy could flat out play. However, Nate Costa and Darron Thomas are both more than capable of playing the quarterback position. Nate Costa may be listed as the starting quarterback as of now, but look for Thomas to make a push for the starting role. Thomas is more athletic and fits the spread offence better than Costa and he also reminds a lot of folks of a guy by the name of Dennis Dixon. Remember him?
Outside of quarterback the Ducks don’t really have any questions on offense. The running attack will be deadly again this year. All five members of the offensive line will be back and their line will be one of the best in the country. LaMichael James is coming off a record setting season and should compete for the Doak Walker, Walter Camp, and Maxwell awards, possibly the Heisman. You can also look for Kenjon Barner and top recruit Lache Seatrunk to make major contributions in the running game and on special teams. Jeff Mahel leads a strong receiving core that includes D.J Davis and Lavasier Tuinei. With Ed Dickson gone you can look for David Paulson to fill in and be productive at the tight end position.
Defensively the Ducks don’t have many spots to fill. All four members of the secondary are back (though 2nd round pick TJ Ward played a large role in the secondary’s success when he was healthy) and the linebacker crew is essentially the same with senior Bryson Littlejohn filling in at the open linebacker spot. The only question is up front on the line and it looks as though Zac Clark and Terrell Turner will join returning starters Kenny Rowe and Brandon Bair to anchor the defense.
While the Ducks should be favorites to repeat as Pac 10 champs it will be no easy task. The Ducks will be challenged early when they go into uncharted territory and play Tennessee at Rocky Top, it will be interesting to see how the Ducks fare on the road against a SEC team so early in the season. There are several other games on the schedule that are very intriguing.
The first Pac 10 challenge will come from Stanford on October 2nd at Autzen. Stanford handed Oregon their only Pac 10 loss last year in 51-42 shootout in which Toby Gerhart ran all over the place (223 yards and 3 TD’s). The good news is that Gerhart is gone, but Stanford still has young Andrew Luck who is liable to sling it around. Look for the Ducks to redeem themselves and pull this one out in a shootout in front of the Autzen faithful.
The next major challenge will come when the Ducks head to Southern California to play the Trojans in prime time. The Ducks spanked the Trojans last year in Autzen last year, but one would have to believe that USC is going to play with a big chip on their shoulder this year after the sanctions the NCAA put on them. This could possibly be the toughest game the Ducks have on the schedule, if they pull this one out then odds are they won’t lose the rest of the way.
The following week Jake Locker and the Huskies come to town. This will be a fun game to watch, Oregon fans hate the Huskies more than any other team (Oregon State is not even close) and Locker is a potential number one pick and may very well be the most talented player in college football. But football is a team sport and Locker is only one guy, so the Ducks should blow them out at home.
Oregon’s final two games of the year could determine who wins the Pac 10. First the Ducks will be challenged by Arizona in Autzen. Last year the Ducks and Wildcats played in perhaps the most exciting game in college football. The Ducks pulled out a thrilling double overtime 44-41 win in Arizona (Masoli was as good as it gets). When the two meet again this year you can expect a similar offensive battle with a similar result.
Then we have the grand finale, the Civil War. If the last two years have been any indication of things to come then it is safe to say that the stakes will be high when the Ducks meet the Beavers at Reser stadium. In the previous two years the Ducks have shattered the Beavers’ Rose Bowl dreams. With any luck for Oregonians we can only hope that this year’s Civil War has so much riding on the line. Hopefully the Ducks will make it three years in a row of dashing Oregon State’s Rose Bowl hopes, and can return to the Rose bowl in consecutive years.
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