Get ready for Oregon to be the preseason’s IT team.
Getting back Justin Herbert at quarterback is a big deal, but getting back almost everyone else on offense – including all five starters up front – matters even more.
Helped by an amazing recruiting class, the defense is full of talent, too, with eight starters returning. Both kickers are back, head coach Mario Cristobal is boosting up the profile as one of the hot coaches in the game.
Everything that was building over the last few years appears ready to break through to put the Ducks back into the College Football Playoff picture.
To get there, though, Oregon has to go at least 11-1. That could be a problem with a showdown against Auburn in Arlington, Texas to start the season. Lose, and there’s no margin for error the rest of the way.
To get there, the Ducks have to win the Pac-12 North. Washington is going to be good, too, and the rivalry battle is in Seattle. The Stanford game is in Palo Alto. Washington State is still good, and Cal is strong enough to go bowling again – and that’s just the North.
To get to the CFP, Oregon has to beat Auburn, take down the Pac-12 North, and again, do it all with just one loss. Even if it does all of that, it has to go to USC against an improved Trojan team, and it has to go to Arizona State late in the season.
The CFP might be a bit too lofty a goal with those five killer games – Auburn, Stanford, Washington, USC and Arizona State – away from Eugene, and that doesn’t even include a possible Pac-12 Championship appearance.
Winning the North and taking the conference title would make this a fantastic season no matter what. Anything else for this team with this much talent won’t do.