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College Football News Preview 2020: Oregon Ducks

College Football News logo College Football News 6/18/2020 Pete Fiutak
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College Football News Preview 2020: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Oregon Ducks season with what you need to know.

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– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense

Top Players | Key Players, Games, Stats

What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction

Schedule Analysis

– Oregon Previews 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

2019 Record: 9-4 overall, 8-1 in Pac-12

Head Coach: Mario Cristobal, 3rd year, 21-7

2019 CFN Final Opinion Ranking: 6

2019 CFN Final Season Formula Ranking: 7

2019 CFN Preview Ranking: 10

No one knows what’s going to happen to the 2020 college football season. We’ll take a general look at where each team stands – doing it without spring ball to go by – while crossing our fingers that we’ll all have some well-deserved fun this fall. Hoping you and yours are safe and healthy.

5. College Football News Preview 2020: Oregon Ducks Offense 3 Things To Know

The offense wasn’t good enough. With all the weapons the Ducks had, and with a quarterback at the level of Justin Herbert, averaging 433 yards and 35 points per game was fine, but again, not enough – it failed to push past 28 points six times.

Herbert might be done, the offensive line might need a reboot, and there’s some uncertainty at several spots, but the Ducks landed a star in new offensive coordinator head coach Joe Moorhead. The former Mississippi State head coach and Penn State offensive coordinator is one of the best offensive assistants in the business, but he first has to rebuild the offensive front to make it all go.

CFN in 60 Video: Oregon Ducks Preview

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Penei Sewell might be the best NFL player in college football. At least, the junior offensive tackle might be the best NFL non-quarterback in the country, and he’ll have to play like it as the one starting offensive lineman returning.

There’s decent size – likely new right tackle Steven Jones is 6-7, 349 pounds, and Sewell goes 6-6 and 330 – but there’s going to be an adjustment. Fortunately, Moorhead is good at this, and head coach Mario Cristobal’s specialty is the offensive front.

It also helps to get back a killer group of running backs. Junior CJ Verdell led the team with 1,220 yards and eight scores – highlighted by a 257-yard game against Washington State and a 208-yard effort in the Pac-12 title win over Utah – but he’s not alone.

Speedy Travis Dye returns after finishing second on the team with 658 yards, and 6-1, 215-pound Cyrus Habibi-Likio returns after thumping for a team-high ten rushing scores.

Oh yeah … Herbert. He was terrific – the guy led the way to a Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl win – but the offense was never quite consistent enough, and there were too many games when he didn’t turn it loose. He’s a Los Angeles Charger now, making 6-5, 220-pound sophomore Tyler Shough the apparent next star up.

Shough won’t add a whole lot of mobility, but he’s a pro-style passer with next-level tools. Adding some help is Boston College transfer Anthony Brown to at least be the veteran No. 2 guy.

On the way is Jay Butterfield – one of the team’s top recruits – to likely redshirt and be one of the main guys in a few years, if he can’t set the world on fire and take the gig right away.

There might not be a superstar college football household name in the receiving corps, bit it’s going to be really, really good, starting with leading returning receiver Johnny Johnson – who led the way with 57 catches for 536 yards and seven scores – along with Jaylon Redd, who added 50 grabs with seven touchdowns.

Throw in USC transfer Devon Williams, the expected emergence of 2018 super-recruit Bryan Addison, and with a whole lot of talented young parts being worked into the mix, and look out.

NEXT: College Football News Preview 2020: Oregon Ducks Defense 3 Things To Know

4. College Football News Preview 2020: Oregon Ducks Defense 3 Things To Know

The defense became a killer last year, leading the Pac-12 in sacks, doing a great job in forcing takeaways, and finishing second overall and in scoring defense, allowing 329 yards and 16.5 points per game.

Leading tackler and heart-and-soul linebacker Troy Dye is gone, but 11 of the top 13 tacklers are expected to be back with a lot more talent on the way, especially for the …

The linebacking corps gets back Isaac Slade-Matautia on the inside after making 62 tackles last year, and 6-2, 260-pound sophomore Mase Funa will likely play a hybrid role on the outside, but the buzz is all about what’s coming.

If Justin Flowe wasn’t the nation’s best linebacker recruit, it might have been Noah Sewell. Flowe is the speedy sideline-to-sideline threat, Sewell is a thumper for the middle, and they’re both expected to matter right out of the gate. Speaking of talent …

Kayvon Thibodeaux was among the nation’s top recruits in 2019, and he’s going to be the star of a great-looking line that gets back 6-1, 322-pound senior Jordon Scott on the nose as the anchor, and 6-3, 293-pound senior Austin Faoliu at the other tackle spot. The depth has to be developed, but as long as the front three is in one piece, it’ll be one of the nation’s best lines.

The pass rush will come from all spots again – starting with Thibodeaux – and the secondary will once again benefit. Seniors Thomas Graham and Deommodore Lenoir are NFL corners – Graham should be a first-rounder – and the safeties are solid around playmaker Brady Breeze at one spot and veteran Nick Pickett at another.

NEXT: College Football News Preview 2020: Top Oregon Ducks Players

College Football News Preview 2020: Top Oregon Ducks Players

Best Oregon Ducks Offensive Player

OT Penei Sewell, Jr.

Trevor Lawrence will be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and if he’s not it, Justin Fields will likely be the guy. But on several draft boards, the 6-6, 330-pound Sewell will be the one on the top of Best Players Available.

The Outland Trophy winner as the nation’s best lineman, he’s a devastating run blocker with the feet to be among the best pass blockers college football has ever seen. Before he becomes the franchise left tackle to protect Tua or Joe or Justin, he gets one more year to dominate the Pac-12.

2. RB CJ Verdell, Jr.

3. QB Tyler Shough, Soph.

4. WR Johnny Johnson, Sr.

5. WR Jaylon Redd, Sr.

Best Oregon Ducks Defensive Player

DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Soph.

The entire college football world wanted him, and Oregon got the best prospect in the 2019 recruiting class. The 6-5, 250-pounder not only became the team’s best pass rusher, but he was great late in games with clutch plays.

He came up with 35 tackles with nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss, and now he knows what he’s doing. He’ll be keyed on more than ever, but the rest of the Duck D is good enough to pick up the slack.

2. CB Thomas Graham, Sr.

3. S Jevon Holland, Jr.

4. S Brady Breeze, Sr.

5. DT Jordon Scott, Sr.

NEXT: College Football News Preview 2020: Oregon Ducks Keys To The Season

College Football News Preview 2020: Oregon Ducks Keys To The Season

Biggest Key To The Oregon Ducks Offense

Score every time there’s a chance. The offense will be terrific. The offensive line will reload in a hurry, the quarterback situation will be fine, the coaching will be top-shelf, and it’ll be a stunner if the Ducks don’t finish in the top three in the Pac-12 in total offense.

But there’s a difference between having another amazing season, and going to the College Football Playoff – it might just come down to not screwing up on the little things.

The kicking game could stand to be better. Camden Lewis was okay, but he only hit 9-of-14 field goals with four misses from 27 yards or closer. None of them mattered all that much – the 20-yarder against Auburn didn’t help, along with another empty trip from the offense – but on the year, the offense was second-to-last in the Pac-12 in red zone conversions.

That did matter in the 31-28 loss to Arizona State. There weren’t any missed field goals, but there was one missed trip inside the 20.

On the year, Oregon only scored 49-of-63 times in the red zone – 77.8%. The 65% touchdown rate wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the 75% rate in 2018. Overall, Oregon blew past the 80% mark in red zone conversions with ease for five years before last season.

Biggest Key To The Oregon Ducks Defense

Prevent the big pass play. The Oregon defense kept Auburn’s Bo Nix in check for most of the opener, and then came the 26-yard game-winning touchdown pass with nine seconds to play.

Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels went off – and WR Brandon Aiyuk helped the cause with 161 yards – with touchdown passes from 57 and 81 yards out, along with a 26-yard play to Frank Darby.

Washington State’s Anthony Gordon averaged over eight yards per pass, coming up enough big plays to make it really, really close in a 37-35 loss.

The Oregon secondary will be among the best in the Pac-12, and the pass rush will be a huge help. However, dealing with Ohio State’s Justin Fields, USC’s Kedon Slovis, and to kick things off, facing North Dakota State’s Trey Lance will be interesting.

Key Oregon Ducks Player To A Successful Season

OT Steven Jones, Soph.

The line loses four starters including OG Shane Lemieux to the New York Giants and C Jake Hanson to the Green Bay Packers, but Calvin Throckmorton was an All-Pac-12 performer at right tackle and backup Brady Aiello is gone, too.

Penei Sewell is the rock at one tackle, and it would make the puzzle pieces fit nicely if Jones can dominate the job on the right side. The 6-7, 349-pounder has the size and the frame, and he has a little bit of starting experience. If he’s an all-star caliber blocker, the Ducks might lead the Pac-12 in fewest sacks allowed.

Key Game To The Oregon Ducks Season

Ohio State, Sept. 12

The loss to Auburn in the 2019 season opener meant the Ducks had to be perfect to get into the CFP, and they weren’t.

There’s going to be a misfire somewhere in the Pac-12 season. Oregon might be the league’s best team, and the schedule is relatively favorable – more on that later – so coming up with a statement win over Ohio State early on would be the buffer.

Beyond that, coming up with a win over this Buckeye team will be just the credibility win that Oregon and the Pac-12 needs. Win, and it really will be all there for the taking – 12-1 or better, Pac-12 Championship, College Football Playoff.

Oregon Ducks Schedule Breakdown & Analysis

2019 Oregon Fun Stats

– Sacks: Oregon 41 for 63 yards – Opponents 14 for 39 yards

– Penalties: Opponents 116 for 947 yards – Oregon 85 for 862 yards

– Rushing TDs: Oregon 26 – Opponents 5

NEXT: College Football News Preview 2020: Oregon Ducks Win Total Prediction, What Will Happen

1. College Football News Preview 2020: Oregon Ducks Win Total Prediction, What Will Happen

CFN in 60 Video: Oregon Ducks Preview

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Four players.

There were several key losses on both sides of the ball – mostly on the offensive line – but QB Justin Herbert, LB Troy Dye, and O linemen Shane Lemieux and Jake Hanson were the only Ducks selected in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Head coach Mario Cristobal picked up where Willie Taggart left off and took the recruiting to a whole other level, and now Oregon legitimately has the talent, explosion, and rising depth to not just get to the College Football Playoff, but to make some noise.

But first, Oregon has to avoid Oregoning.

Clemsoning used to be the term when the Clemson Tigers would be good enough to come up with a huge win, but would suffer one crippling brain cramp to screw it all up.

It wasn’t actually a real thing – there weren’t any horrible losses to earn the term, and it all went away after Dabo took things to another level – but the perception was there.

Oregoning, though, is starting to become a bit of a problem.

Like not showing up until it was way too late in a late-season loss at Arizona State that ended any national title hopes.

Like getting rolled 44-15 by an Arizona team that didn’t go bowling in 2018.

Like getting rocked by a mediocre UCLA team 31-14 in 2017, and then coming back to blowout Utah.

This year’s Oregon team is good enough to beat everyone on the schedule, with the lone exception possibly being Ohio State. But the team can’t whiff on the road against an Arizona, or a Washington State, or a Colorado.

This is a young team, and even more than in any other season, keeping focus and executing the entire way is going to be vital.

Set The Oregon Ducks Regular Season Win Total At … 10

Bet at BetMGM Win Total Line: 9.5

The schedule works.

There’s no Utah, and the dates against Ohio State, USC, and Washington are all in Eugene.

There can’t be a loss in the dangerous opener against defending FCS champion North Dakota State, and five of the Pac-12 games are on the road, but three of those are against teams that didn’t go bowling.

Allow for a possible loss to Ohio State and/or one other misfire along the way. Beat Ohio State, and then Oregoning won’t be a concern – the team will be good enough to win 11 games and be in the CFP mix.

Lose to the Buckeyes, and it’ll win ten games and be out again.

But with the talent Mario Cristobal is piling up, and with the arrow for the program pointing way, way up, Oregon might just become the new Clemson, and then no one will care about the missed opportunities of the last few years.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense

Top Players | Key Players, Games, Stats

Schedule Analysis

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