In Oregon, we are keenly aware of the love (or, most often, ignorance), our local teams get from national media. But this year’s Oregon football team has the brand-power, name recognition and returning talent necessary to draw attention from all corners of the college football world.
The most recent affirmation comes from The Athletic and their panel of eight national college football writers, including greats like Bruce Feldman, Stewart Mandel, and Andy Staples.
The Athletic staff got together and made their predictions for which teams will make the College Football Playoff and win the national championship. While most of the picks were predictable – Alabama and Clemson made everyone’s playoff and one of them was everyone’s national champion – one playoff pick stood out.
Credit where credit is due. Matt Fortuna was the only writer to pick a Pac-12 team to reach the Playoff, and he picked the Oregon Ducks to compliment his trio of Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma. Fortuna’s reasoning was more to differ from his colleagues than it was belief in Oregon’s team, but what the heck, a pick is a pick. Writes Fortuna:
Oregon: My head tells me to put Ohio State here, but what fun is picking all the favorites? Former national champion lineman Mario Cristobal has a loaded O-line back to protect his first-round pick at QB, Justin Herbert. And the Ducks open with the kind of marquee nonconference opponent (Auburn) that, with a win, will allow them to withstand a loss in a fairly brutal Pac-12 road slate (at Stanford, at Washington, at USC).
Fortuna makes a valid point: If Oregon can beat Auburn, it affords them a loss while running the Pac-12 gauntlet. However, a loss to the Tigers immediately puts any playoff hopes to rest.
The Ducks return senior quarterback Justin Herbert as a Heisman hopeful, and returns their entire starting offensive line that includes four seniors and impeccable left tackle Penei Sewell. But questions remain concerning the consistency (and health) of the wide receiving core and the ability to navigate a tough road conference schedule.
The Ducks were barely picked as favorites to win the North Division over Washington by the Pac-12 media. They open the season August 31st against Auburn from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
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