Oregon has had a fairly up-and-down season through six games in 2011.
The loss to LSU, that was likely the most hyped up season-opening game in the history of the program, was a very deflating loss. Unlike the BCS Championship loss to Auburn which was decided by a last second field goal, LSU thoroughly outplayed the Ducks. The theme of the game, again, was Oregon gettting mauled at the line of scrimmage by LSU's defense.
It was another big stage for the Ducks, and it was another high-profile loss. After an offseason full of distractions from the Willie Lyles saga to the eventual transfer of Lache Seastrunk to Baylor and some early-season suspensions, the Ducks have held the ship together quite nicely.
Give Chip Kelly and his staff a lot of credit for keeping Oregon's young team motivated. Only five scholarship seniors dot the roster, and the Ducks have maintained course, and at 5-1 and ranked ninth in the country, the season can still be a great one.
Even with a crushing blow to the lineup due to injuries in the past few weeks, Oregon has continued to put up incredible offensive numbers. Nationally, Oregon ranks third in points per game, fifth in total yards per game, fifth in rushing yards and a respectable 67th (224 yards per game) in their air passing attack. LaMichael James still leads the country in rushing yards per game, and Darron Thomas' TD-to-INT ration of 17-to-3 is fantastic, but how healthy can these guys really be?
Oregon's meat of its schedule is in November, with two consecutive weekend trips to Seattle and Palo Alto only to host USC and Oregon State in closing out the regular season. Opinions vary on the Ducks. Are they only a few upsets across the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten away from stepping back into the national title picture? Or are these Ducks limping along and prime for a beatdown the Washington Huskies and Stanford Cardinal could easily hand out?
What Duck fans can be thrilled about: The future looks very bright for the Ducks, for the current season and for years to come. 2011 can still be a historic one, as a showdown with Stanford looms if both teams can handle business along the way before 11/19. The roster is chocked full of ample speed and athleticism that fits what Chip Kelly and Nick Alliotti want to do on both sides of the ball.
Meanwhile, construction is under place for a sparkling five story football complex next to Autzen Stadium and is just another jewel in the Oregon football program's crown of platinum facilities. The 2012 recruiting class will be another top 20 class with potential to break into the top 10 after coming off the program's best ever class in 2011.
What Duck fans should be grouchy about: So when do the party crashers from Indianapolis show up and turn off the music in Eugene? Everyone knows that Oregon's football program is being looked into by the NCAA, and that makes all Duck fans uneasy. It has to have some play in recruiting as high school seniors, and their parents face the possibility, regardless of how high likely or unlikely, that Oregon could have the hammer dropped on it any day from the NCAA.
As far as 2011, the defense has been quite leaky. The defense, at the midway point in the year, is ranked 92nd in total defense and 85th in pass defense. Oregon fans will respond by saying that the Ducks score so quickly that their defense is on the field so much, but nevertheless, Nick Alliotti's defense must get more stops or worry that Keith Price and Andrew Luck will torch them in a few weeks.
Predicted Finish: 12-1 (10-0 in Pac-12 with a victory in the Pac-12 Championship Game)