2019 Oregon Ducks Football Predictions and Odds to Win National Championship
There are few guys in the country who are going to be more interesting to watch this year than Oregon QB Justin Herbert. When highly-touted QBs come back for their senior season, it is usually because they have work to do to improve their draft stock. Herbert was in play as the first overall pick last year if he had entered the draft, though, and would very likely not have been worse than the second player off the board. When there is nowhere to go but down, conventional wisdom is typically to take the money and run. But Herbert has decided to come back for another kick at the can.
There is some room to improve - his completion percentage fell last year, and his receivers dropped more balls than they should, which could have something to do with how the ball was getting to them. But it's not like he can get more prototypical, and that's all NFL teams really care about - if they cared truly about game play then there is no way in the world that Daniel Jones would have gone nine spots ahead of Dwayne Haskins. Herbert is a major talent, but there is significant risk in his decision. And how he does will have a huge impact in whether Oregon can threaten Washington for the division title.
2018 in a Nutshell
It was a 9-4 season, but not really the good kind. They beat Washington in overtime, which was by far the highlight of the year. But only one of their other wins - Arizona State - was particularly noteworthy. The others came against an impressive band of losers - Bowling Green, Portland State, San Jose State, Cal, UCLA and Oregon State. It would be tough to assemble a less inspiring slate of games than that. Losses in overtime to Stanford, at Washington State and at Utah weren't horrible, though they need to be winning some of those games if they are serious about being relevant. But a blowout 44-15 loss at Arizona is beyond questionable. All in all, they played last year like a team with a very good QB and not nearly enough around him. Their Redbox Bowl performance against Michigan State counts as a win, but if they aren't using the replay of that game as a torture mechanism for high value prisoners, then they should. The game set the sport of football back a decade.
Key Additions and Departures
We don't typically start with recruits in this section, but DE Kayvin Thibodeaux is worthy of an exception. He was the top-ranked player in the country according to ESPN and is the highest-ranked recruit Oregon has ever signed. He enrolled early and played well in spring ball. He will step right into a starting role and will be a big addition to this team. He headlined a class that was ranked the consensus seventh overall in the country. That's a high level given where the team has been and how they have recruited in recent years.
Thibodeaux and the rest of the defense will have a new defensive coordinator to work with. Jim Leavitt departed in one of the stranger soap operas we have seen in recent years. He is replaced by Andy Avalos, a former Boise State linebacker who has been defensive coordinator at that school the last three years. Leavitt wasn't doing a great job, and Avalos has some solid talent to work with, so the transition should be a positive.
The team lost four players to the draft. All were in the fourth round or later, so it could have been worse. They said goodbye to three spark plugs on defense, though, and receiver Dillon Mitchell set a school record for yardage last year as a junior.
Biggest Area of Concern
It has to be Herbert - even though he is arguably their best player. He has a veteran offensive line to play behind, but the receiving corps needs to prove itself and get better at holding onto the ball, and the running backs are a work in progress. By choosing to come back, Herbert put a giant target on his back, and the pressure he faces every time he touches the ball will be immense. He could very well totally be up to what he faces, but not every guy in a similar situation lives up to massive expectations. And this team will enter the season as a ranked squad largely because of him. We'll find out what he is truly made of now.
Oregon Ducks Schedule Analysis
Things are tough right out of the gate, as they open against Auburn in Arlington, Texas. Ironically, it's probably not the game that either program would like to have right now. Nevada and Montana will be much easier nonconference opponents. They open conference play with another chance to make a statement, playing at Stanford. Then Cal and Colorado should be not much more than working vacations before a game at Washington that could very likely define the entire season for the team. Things are easier from there, though the next four games - Washington State, at USC, Arizona, at Arizona State - could all trip up a team that isn't focused or firing on all cylinders. Then they close with the Civil War against Oregon State - a matchup that has been so lame for so long now that I almost forget a time when it was actually interesting.
2019-20 Oregon Ducks Betting Odds and Trends
BetOnline has Oregon at +3300 to win the national title, which places them behind nine other teams - including Washington at +2500. Both the price and the placement feel optimistic to me. Bovada is even more bullish, naming Oregon as +210 favorites to win the Pac-12 North, compared to Washington at +215. The two teams meet in Seattle this year, so I just don't understand that price at all. Herbert is at +1600 to win the Heisman, which puts him behind 10 other players, including six other quarterbacks.
2019-20 Oregon Ducks Predictions and College Football Picks
Mario Cristobal has done a heck of a job restoring the culture to this program after a remarkably swift and brutal fall from grace. And he is certainly moving in the right direction. But I just can't shake the feeling that this is at best the second-best team in the Pac-12 by a wide margin, and the Pac-12 is decidedly the fifth best conference in the country. I find it much harder to get excited about the team than oddsmakers seem to. And I have a sense of dread surrounding Herbert's return.
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