Southern Football Report Preseason Top 25 – Team #8

#8 – Oregon Ducks
Eugene, Oregon
Autzen Stadium (54,000)
2013 Record: 11-2 (7-2)

The Ducks began the 2013 season in the top 5 and reeled off 8 straight wins including a 42-14 beat down of upstart UCLA in Eugene. Then the Stanford Cardinal came to town and opened with a 26-0 lead on their way to a 26-20 win. Two weeks later, before their road game against Arizona,  some Duck players made some not-so-eloquent remarks about their desire to not play in another Rose Bowl which drew some criticism from around the country. As fate would have it, star quarterback Marcus Mariota injured his knee in the game and Oregon went on to lose the game 42-16, their worse defeat since 2008.

Can Marcus Mariota lead the Ducks to a National Championship in 2014?
Can Marcus Mariota lead the Ducks to a National Championship in 2014?

The calendar has turned to the 2014 season and Oregon is again poised to make some serious noise on the national landscape and many have them making the first College Football Playoff. They return a healthy Marcus Mariota who is on a lot of Heisman short lists. Mariota finished the season with 3665 passing yards, 31 touchdown passes to only 4 interceptions, 715 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns and a 30-7 bowl win over Texas. The Ducks also return a solid backfield including 3 of their top rushers not including Mariota. Junior runningback Byron Marshall ran for 1038 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013 and is primed to do it again in 2014. Also in the backfield will be sophomore Thomas Tyler who had 9 rushing scores of his own in 2013 and will have a breakout season in 2014. The Ducks are looking to make it 8 straight seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher. The biggest question mark on offense will be the wide receivers group where there isn’t a lot of experience as Josh Huff graduated and Bralen Addison injured his knee in the spring. Addison had almost 900 yards receiving in 2013 and his status early in the season is still up in the air. Senior Keanon Lowe will be expected to lead the group on the field when he only caught 18 passes last season. If the wide receivers are unproven, the offensive line is as experienced as they come. The Ducks were going to return four of five starting offensive lineman in 2014 until Monday when starting left tackle Tyler Johnstone re-tore his ACL in practice. Johnstone originally injured his knee in the Alamo Bowl against Texas and was on his way to start the season opener before his injury this week. Even with that injury, the Ducks offensive line will be very good protecting Mariota and paving a way for the speedy runningbacks. Leading the group will be senior center Hroniss Grasu who turned down the NFL Draft to stay in Eugene for his senior season.

On defense the Ducks have to replace 6 starters but also have to do so with

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu: strange name, solid game.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu: strange name, solid game.

a new defensive coordinator. Longtime defensive coach Nick Aliotti retired following the 2013 season but hand-picked linebackers coach Don Pellum to run the defense. Pellum has been in the Oregon program in one way or another since 1993. On the field the strength of the Ducks defense in 2014 will definitely be the linebacker who will be led by senior outside linebacker Derrick Malone who led the team with 105 tackles last season. The Ducks ended the 2011 season with a ridiculous 45 sacks but have only recorded 56 since then. Oregon’s defense will need to get after the quarterback more efficiently in 2014 and senior defensive end Tony Washington might just be the threat that they will need as he led the team with 7.5 sacks last year. Oregon will need to replace everyone in their secondary except senior cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (who some consider the best cornerback in college football) who shunned the NFL to try and win a championship at Oregon. The wild card in the Oregon defense in 2014 will be big defensive tackle Arik Armstead, a 6-foot 8-inch 300 pound monster from Sacramento who reminds me of ‘Big John’ Henderson who played at Tennessee in the early 2000’s.

Remember this name: Arik Armstead.
Remember this name: Arik Armstead.

After a cupcake opener against the Coyotes of South Dakota, the Ducks welcome the reigning Big Ten & Rose Bowl Champion Spartans of Michigan State to the unfriendly confines of Autzen Stadium for an early season clash of the titans. Both teams enter the 2014 season with legitimate chances to make the College Football Playoff and a loss would put either team behind the eight ball early in the season. The month of September ends with a tricky road game to eastern Washington to play head coach Mike Leach and the Cougars, who return EVERYBODY from last season on offense. October begins with a home Thursday night game against Arizona followed by a road game to Los Angeles to take on UCLA. November will begin with the Stanford Cardinal in Eugene, a game that both teams and fans all over the country mark on their calendars every year, and end with the annual Civil War game against arch nemesis Oregon State. An overview of the schedule reveals that of the Ducks’ three toughest games, two of them are at home but there is one or two tricky road games that the Ducks will need to navigate.

Oregon is a team that is always in the hunt for a national championship in the preseason but hasn’t won their own division since 2011. They are in one of the toughest divisions in college football and luckily, don’t have to make a trip to the deserts of Arizona this year. The offensive line will be able to keep Mariota upright, the rushing attack will continue to be one of the best in the country and the defense will be good enough to keep them in every game they play. It all comes down to whether or not the wide receivers show up to play 2014. And when you have a great rushing attack and an efficient quarterback, you don’t have to be THAT good to round it all out.

Autzen Stadium
Autzen Stadium

Stay logged on to for Team #7 on Thursday and tune in to the Southern Football Report every Saturday from 10am-Noon starting on August 23rd! Here is a hint for Team #7: This team’s first mascot was a gift to the school from a local businessman who won the mascot in a poker game. 

#7 – ???????????
#8 – Oregon Ducks
#9 – Georgia Bulldogs
#10 – Notre Dame Fightin Irish
#11 – USC Trojans
#12 – LSU Tigers
#13 – Michigan State Spartans
#14 – South Carolina Gamecocks
#15 – Ole Miss Rebels
#16 – Wisconsin Badgers
#17 – Stanford Cardinal
#18 – North Carolina Tar Heels
#19 – Florida Gators
#20 – Texas Longhorns
#21 – Iowa Hawkeyes
#22 – Arizona Wildcats
#23 – Boise State Broncos
#24 – Northwestern Wildcats
#25 – Michigan Wolverines

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