Oregon Ducks Odds to win the College Football National Championship with Expert Betting Predictions
In the early days of January 2015 Oregon played in the National Championship Game, losing to Ohio State. The next year they were 9-4. Then 4-8. And by January of 2017 Willie Taggart - a guy who was 4-8 in 2014 at South Florida and 11-2 last year - was the head coach, and Mark Helfrich was an afterthought on the ash heap of coaching history - the guy who destroyed what Chip Kelly handed to him on a silver platter. It's not just that Oregon went through some rough times that is striking - lots of teams have done that. It is that in two short years it was as if they forgot how to play football and how to act like a top program. Taggart was a strong hire, but his early days haven't been without bumps - like when players wound up in the hospital after lifting weights and he had to apologize publicly almost before he had figured out where his office was. Can Taggart right this sinking ship? And how long is that likely to take?
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2016 in a Nutshell
The Ducks entered the season ranked 24th nationally, which was truly insane - some sort of voter hangover from the olden days. They beat UC Davis and Virginia in their first two and then things got so, so ugly. They lost five straight, with a seven-touchdown deficit to Washington being the unquestioned low point. Then they beat Arizona State before losing to USC and Stanford. Somehow they won at Utah in a loss that was hugely costly to the Utes, who were No. 11 at the time, but they got right back to their losing ways in the Civil War against Oregon State. There is no excuse for losing to Oregon State these days. The struggles weren't entirely surprising - I mean, they had hired Brady Hoke as their defensive coordinator heading into the season, so they had basically given up from the start. But to see how far they fell was almost sad. Optimists would point out that three losses were only by a field goal each, so the team was close to respectable. The problem, though, is that they weren't even close to competitive against teams like Washington, USC, Stanford, and even Washington State - the teams you need to beat to be relevant in this conference. Spin it all you want, but this team really, really sucked last year.
Key Additions and Departures
Taggart brought a strong staff with him. Mario Cristobal and Marcus Arroyo are co-offensive coordinators - and Cristobal is one of the finest recruiters in the country. Jim Leavitt, another former South Florida coach who did a heck of a job at Colorado the last two years, is defensive coordinator. Those additions alone already make this a much better team. They have a fair bit to work with, too - at least in terms of experience. QB Justin Hebert is back, and so are his three top rushers - including the very good Royce Freeman, who will hopefully be healthier than he was last year - his two best receivers, and five linemen with starting experience. Defensively it's even better, as they return five of seven linemen, five of six linebackers, and all five of their best defensive backs. The staff will surely change things around a lot to find things that work, but at least they aren't starting from scratch.
All things considered, the recruiting could have been much worse. They finished with a Top 20 class that features five four-star players.
Oregon Ducks Schedule Analysis
Let's get the first part out of the way early. This team isn't winning at Washington, and they aren't winning at Stanford. They don't have to play USC, which is good because they wouldn't beat them, either. Beyond that, though, Taggart has a relatively manageable schedule. Their remaining road games are at Wyoming, UCLA and Arizona State. They could win two of those three fairly easily. At home Washington State will be tough, but Cal likely won't be, Arizona could be quite bad, and Oregon State is still Oregon State. That leaves only Utah, which should be a shell of the team they were last year. The Ducks can't be expected to execute perfectly, and they have some big questions, but it isn't too tough to imagine this team getting to seven or eight wins and a bowl game. If they manage that then every dollar Taggart earns is justified.
2017-18 Oregon Ducks Betting Odds and Trends
The Ducks are at +8000 to win the national title at BetOnline . The mere fact that there are odds on the team when there aren't on nearly 100 other programs nationally right now is a total mystery to me. Anyone who would want to bet on this team to win it all at this or any price is either blindly loyal or dangerously stupid. At +1200 they are the fourth choice to win the Pac-12 but far behind favored USC at +110. This is as much a statement about how quickly all that impressive depth in the conference disappeared as anything.
2017-18 Oregon Ducks Predictions and College Football Picks
I like the Taggart pick, and I like the staff he has built. This team won't look much like the depressing mess it was last year. But it won't look anything like what it was a few years ago, either. Not yet. I put the very optimistic cap at nine wins and would take the "under" on that number without hesitation.
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