Now, I still have Washington winning the Pac-12, but Oregon has been the talk of the town this offseason and for good reason, the Ducks went 9-4 in Mario Cristobal’s first year at the helm and star QB Justin Herbert returns along with all but one starter on offense and most of a star-studded defense. The schedule is tough, but this team will compete.
Ten starters return on offense in a group led by future first-round pick Justin Herbert at QB. Herbert averaged 7.8 yards a throw in 2018 and returns five of his top six targets, although the one loss, Dillon Mitchell, is a big one. Slot man Jaylon Reed is exciting and the Ducks add Penn State grad transfer Juwan Johnson and a pair of exciting freshman in Mycah Pittman and Bryan Addison.
In the run game, CJ Verdell and Travis Die both return after combining for over 1,800 yards, 14 touchdowns, and a 5.1 yard per carry average. Six linemen with starting experience are back including potential All-American Calvin Throckmorton and they add JUCO transfer Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu. This should be one of the best offenses in the country.
Jim Leavitt moves on but the Ducks brought in an excellent replacement at defensive coordinator in Boise State’s Andy Avalos, who was the DC with the Broncos the last three years. The Broncos had a legit top-25 defense in the country last year despite obvious recruiting disadvantages so I’m excited to see how they play.
A ton of talent is back from last year’s team including maybe the best interior line unit in the country between Jordon Scott, Gary Baker, and Austin Faoliu, but the Ducks also add some pieces including the #2 overall player in the 2019 class, end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who should have an immediate impact.
Troy Dye is back at linebacker after an all-conference year and four guys who played significant time are back in the secondary in a group led by CBs Thomas Graham (3.5 TFL, 18 PBUs!, three picks) and Deommodore Lenoir (nine PBUs three picks). Safety Jevon Holland added five interceptions.
With veteran talent but also a ton of interesting young guys like Thibodeaux, five-star safety Chris Steele, and a bevy of four-stars throughout the defense, I’m really excited about this group taking a step forward under the new leadership.
Writing this and the Washington preview back to back, I’ve convinced myself that Oregon may be a better team than Washington. The model has Washington slightly higher, 15th to 17th, the deciding factor being the Huskies’ recent consistency (32 wins the past three years) as compared to Oregon’s lack thereof (19 wins the past three years), but whether or not I think Oregon may be slightly better, they still aren’t my pick to win the conference due to a brutal schedule where their four road games in conference play are against their four toughest opponents, most notably against Washington, who will have the home-field edge for the potential head-to-head decider.
|vs. Auburn (arlington, tx)
|at Arizona State
Average Projected Record: 8.0 wins, 4.0 losses (5.8 wins, 3.2 losses)