Ohio State Buckeyes top way-too-early college football top 25 rankings

Photo via Getty Images

The 2017 season of college football is already promising to be a good one. With several teams poised to contend for the title and last year’s championship winner Clemson not yet in a position to defend its title, the top 25 looks like it could change at any moment.

With all this in mind, here is the JR Report’s way-too-early college football top 25.

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JT Barret will need to have his best season yet for Ohio State to take the number 1 place. Photo via Getty Images

1. Ohio State

Picking Ohio State over Alabama is a bold move, considering the Buckeyes’ last game where they lost 31-0 against Clemson.

With new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and both returners and new starters to bolster the offense, OSU is looking better than it has looked in a long time.

The Buckeyes also return seven of their defensive starters, who looked great in spring games. Ohio State has a chance to keep Alabama from winning a title, but will the Buckeyes be the ones to win it?

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Jalen Hurts had an amazing rookie season, and is looking to do even better in his sophomore year. Photo via Getty Images

2. Alabama

Even after losing several of their key starters, the Crimson Tide look great. Jalen Hurts looked amazing in the spring games, and so did his potential backup Tua Tagovailoa.

It’s an almost sure thing that the Tide are No.1 in the AP Poll, but it won’t last if they can’t hold up in the season opener against FSU. Their offense needs significant improvement with a better receiving corps and a more consistent pass attack.

Jalen Hurts is more than up to the task, but Ohio State will likely overtake the Tide in the polls.

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Deondre Francois has some more improvement to do if he hopes to be considered for the Heisman. Photo via Bobby Ellis / Getty Images

3. Florida State

The Seminoles are looking great for the preseason. It wouldn’t be surprising if they’re ranked worse, but No. 3 is a good place for them. They will have a lot to prove in their first game against a first or second-ranked Alabama, but they’re ready for a dog fight.

Five-star running back recruit Cam Akers is prepared to take up the job that Dalvin Cook left for him, and safety Derwin James is finally healthy enough to tear up the field.

Quarterback Deondre Francois seems to have improved on the field, and as he gets more and more comfortable in his role, opposing teams have more to worry about.

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Sam Darnold is already being projected as the 2018 NFL No.1 draft pick. Photo via Otto Gruele Jr. / Getty Images

4. USC

It’ll be interesting to see if the Trojans live up to all the off-season hype. True, Sam Darnold is a Heisman-caliber quarterback and it’s unlikely that he’ll have a bad season, but the strength of schedule is a recurring question for USC.

USC played the spring game with plenty of injuries, so we didn’t get a good picture of how the offense is shaping up for 2017. The Trojans are a favorite for the college football playoff, but it remains to be seen where they can ascend to despite their poor schedule.

If the Trojans can get over all the injuries and come into the season at 100 percent, No. 4 is the perfect ranking for them.

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Running back Saquon Barkley is undoubtedly one of the best backs in the game right now. Photo via USA Today Sports

5. Penn State

There’s no doubt that Penn State and its fans are still unhappy about being edged out of the playoff despite winning the Big Ten title.

With the trio of quarterback Trace McSorley, running back Saquon Barkley, and redshirt sophomore receiver Juwan Johnson, the Nittany Lions will once again be a contender for the Big Ten championship.

The Nittany Lions have a lot to prove if they want to show that they deserve a place in the college football playoff, but this year’s team makes it look possible.

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Head coach Dabo Swinney has a lot of rebuilding to do if he hopes to keep the Tigers on top. Photo via Getty Images

6. Clemson

Although the Tigers lost star quarterback Deshaun Watson, they have some good players fighting for the position. In addition, the Clemson defense is one of the best defenses in the team’s history and will contend with Alabama for the best defense in the nation.

Clemson’s early schedule will be the perfect testing ground for the young team with games at Auburn and Louisville—there, we will see if the Tigers’ offense is reloaded enough to be a serious threat to FSU in the ACC.

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Jake Browning should be healthy by the start of the season after his shoulder surgery. Photo via Otto Gruele Jr. / Getty Images

7. Washington

Washington had a couple hiccups in the offseason like quarterback Jake Browning’s shoulder surgery and losing wide receiver John Ross to the NFL, but they are back and ready to compete.

Although the Huskies face tough opponents like Colorado, Stanford, and Washington State, they won’t face serious challenges beyond these teams until they play in the Pac-12 title game. Until then, they’ll stay on top of their side of the Pac-12 and likely in the top 10 nationally.

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Mason Rudolph is looking to make a splash in the Big 12 this season. Photo via Sue Ogrocki / AP Photo

8. Oklahoma State

The offseason was the perfect storm for Cowboys fans: their biggest rival Oklahoma lost both legendary coach Bob Stoops and outstanding running back Joe Mixon.

In addition, quarterback Mason Rudolph and his receiving corps are one of the best offenses in the nation. With returning receiver James Washington and LSU transfer wide receiver Tyron Johnson, the Cowboys are prepared to take on the Sooners’ offense better than they have in a good number of years.

If the Cowboys can bolster their mediocre defense and stay dominant offensively, this could be the year that they beat Oklahoma for the Big 12 crown.

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Legendary coach Bob Stoops recently announced his retirement–how much will this impact the Sooners’ 2017 season? Photo via CBS Sports

9. Oklahoma

Despite Oklahoma’s recent misfortune, they’re still Oklahoma. Legendary coach Bob Stoops announced his surprise retirement last week, and many are wondering what this means for the Sooners.

Although star quarterback Baker Mayfield returns with his entire offensive line, the Sooners lost a lot of other offensive depth, such as wide receiver Dede Westbrook, running back Joe Mixon, and running back Samaje Perine.

The offense should still be explosive headed by Mayfield and Oklahoma will still have a good chance of winning the Big 12—now, they just have to try a little harder.

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Baylor transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham seems to be a good fit for the Tigers. Photo via Peter G. Aiken / Getty Images

10. Auburn

Auburn fans are excited this season, and rightly so—some are saying this is the Auburn team that can beat Bama for the first time since 2013.

Quarterback Jarrett Stidham has been performing well in practice and in the spring game. With running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson behind him, the Tigers offense is ready to go.

With a stellar recruiting class and a reloaded defense, the Tigers will be a big contender in the top 10, even if they lose the Iron Bowl.

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Derrius Guice is the perfect running back answer to LSU’s offensive problem. Photo via Bill Feig / The Advocate

11. LSU

With the arrival of offensive coordinator Matt Canada, Tigers fans are cautiously optimistic about the 2017 season. A lot of this optimism stems from hopes about running back Derrius Guice. Guice is set up to be one of the best running backs in the nation next year.

The Tigers don’t have a running problem, and they definitely won’t have a defense problem after completely turning around the defense under defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.

The main problem for LSU going into next season is quarterback Danny Etling. If he can show improvement next season, the Tigers will be another thorn in Alabama’s side in the SEC.

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Jim Harbaugh has a lot of rebuilding to do to shape Michigan into a team like last year’s. Photo via Getty Images

12. Michigan

Jim Harbaugh’s team will likely be good once again, but the important question is whether they have the talent to be a top-10 team. With the way things are looking now, the answer is not quite.

Michigan lost 18 starters, but Harbaugh excels in turning a team of rookies into a high-caliber team. The Wolverines boast one of the top recruiting classes in the nation which has convinced many that while Michigan will be a different team next year, they will still be great as long as Harbaugh is in charge.

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Alex Hornibrook is a more than adequate quarterback for a solid Badgers squad. Photo via Jeff Hanisch / USA Today Sports

13. Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a solid pick to play well every year. The Badgers, under new defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, look to dominate the Big Ten West via defense.

The Badgers also have the duo of solid quarterback Alex Hornibrook and wide receiver Jazz Peavy, so there is still the potential to make a major impact offensively.

Wisconsin won’t have a particularly difficult schedule, either. They only face Michigan as far as powerful Big Ten teams go, which should go as a big advantage for them staying on top of their division and staying ranked all season.

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Nick Chubb has been a celebrity in Athens for his years at UGA. Photo via Dale Zanine / USA Today Sports

14. Georgia

The well-known running back duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel return for the Bulldogs along with the passing attack from sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason.

The Dawgs’ defense is also nothing to joke around about. With 10 returning starters, the Georgia defense will be one of the best in the league. Along with Auburn and LSU, the Bulldogs are among the SEC teams with the capability of finally beating Alabama.

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Miami head coach Mark Richt is hard at work figuring out a replacement for quarterback Brad Kaaya. Photo via Luis M. Alvarez / AP Photo

15. Miami

The only thing different between this year’s Miami team and last year’s will be the quarterback. With Brad Kaaya’s departure, the Canes are choosing between three potential replacements.

The Hurricanes have an impressive receiving and running game, as well as a stellar defense. If the quarterback choice meshes well with the rest of the offense, Miami will clinch the ACC Coastal division.

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Lamar Jackson, one of the best quarterbacks in the league, leaps over a Syracuse defender. Photo via Rich Barnes / USA Today Sports

16. Louisville

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson returns to Louisville this season, and every season that he’s on the team is a season where the Cardinals will be good.

The biggest concern for the Cardinals is protecting Jackson. If they can improve their offensive line, Jackson won’t need to be worried about being sacked 46 times again this season.

Louisville may have a similarly disappointing season to last year’s 9-4 finish, but they will certainly start off strong.

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Keller Chryst suffered an injury late last season, but hopes to return for 2017. Photo via Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

17. Stanford

With quarterback Keller Chryst injured and hoping to return before next season, the Cardinal have put some confidence in backup quarterback Ryan Burns. The Cardinal will have an uphill battle to remain relevant in 2017 with an early game against USC.

Stanford isn’t worried about things on the other side of the ball, and will tout one of the best defenses in the Pac-12.

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Quinton Flowers has put the USF Bulls in position for a breakout season. Photo via USF Athletics

18. USF

USF is the AAC team receiving the most hype coming into the 2017 season led by dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate and star quarterback Quinton Flowers.

Charlie Strong has made great strides as the incoming coach for the Bulls making the offense is stronger than it has ever been. More importantly, the defense is also looking strong.

With the way things are going and the rise of the AAC, it wouldn’t be surprising to see USF as a top-10 team by the end of the season.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding transfer quarterback Will Grier. Photo via Kelsie VanderWijst / BGS

19. West Virginia

Florida transfer quarterback Will Grier already seems to be finding more success at West Virginia than he ever did for the Gators. He performed well during spring games and the hype is building in Morgantown.

Grier will benefit from a solid running back and wide receiver corps, so the offense isn’t the main worry for the Mountaineers.

The main concern is the defense, and if WVU can find its defensive stride they will be a contender for the Big 12 championship.

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There are a lot of questions surrounding the Gators this year, and a lot of their success rests on Feleipe Franks. Photo via David Bowie / Gator Country

20. Florida

Redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks has made some waves in Gainesville after he won the quarterback battle.

The Gators hope to clinch the SEC East, but they will face stiff competition from Georgia and a surprisingly strong Tennessee team.

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Wildcats quarterback Jesse Ertz battled injury last year, but will most likely be healthy for 2017. Photo via Bo Rader/ the Wichita Eagle via AP Photo

21. Kansas State

The Wildcats are shaping up well, and all three avenues of offensive playmaking are wide open. Dual-threat Jesse Ertz should be cleared after his shoulder surgery, and he’s got a deep corps of receivers and running back Alex Barnes as options.

Kansas State also returns a significant amount of defenders, and they will prove to be a force to be reckoned with in the Big 12. They’re an outlier like West Virginia and TCU, but they have upset potential for opponents such as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

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Former USF coach Willie Taggart is ready to revamp the Ducks’ football program. Photo via Chris Pietsch / The Register-Guard

22. Oregon

2016 was a year of disappointment for the Ducks after they dipped below five wins for the first time since 1991 and had their first losing season since 2004. It was  a wakeup call for Oregon, and with incoming coach Willie Taggart the Ducks are looking to climb their way back to the top again.

Oregon is an iffy choice for the top 25 at this point, but they have the tools they need to stage a comeback in 2017. With a surprisingly strong recruiting class, the Ducks will rack up at least seven wins and will remain hovering around the rankings all season.

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Washington State quarterback Luke Falk is underrated coming into 2017, but he’ll prove himself quickly. Photo via USA Today Sports

23. Washington State

The Cougars look great coming into the 2017 season headed by quarterback Luke Falk. Falk has a great spread of receivers to pass to, as well as a strong running corps.

Washington State should field a good defensive line as well, and the Cougars are set up to be good competition for their in-state rivals, Washington.

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Volunteers’ quarterback Quinten Dormady is raising hopes in Tennessee. Photo via Andrew Bruckse / Tennessee Athletics

24. Tennessee

Vols quarterback Quinten Dormady shined during the spring game, and Tennessee is looking good on both sides of the ball for 2017.

Tennessee faces stiff competition in the SEC East against Georgia and Florida. They have upset potential, however, and will be looking to try for the SEC East crown.

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There are already noticeable changes in the Texas program under new head coach Tom Herman. Photo via the Associated Press

25. Texas

After a disappointing decline for the Longhorns’ football program, head coach Tom Herman is looking to turn it around with a complete program overhaul. Herman’s recruiting and redesigning has brought new life to Austin.

The Longhorns are looking to retake their place as one of the strongest college football programs, and although a change like that doesn’t happen overnight, they will be contenders to edge into the top 25 next season.

“26”. TCU, Virginia Tech, Boise State

These three teams are right on the edge of the top 25, and could very well see their names on the list when the first polls are published.

 

Taggart looks to turn around Ducks program

Photo via Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard

Despite the Oregon Ducks being a dominating force for a good number of years, only missing out on one bowl game since 1997, they have not been good at football recently.

Rather, their basketball team is the talk of the town.

Ducks’ football went 4-8 this season with a conference record of 2-7, a stark contrast to the program’s history.

Going into the 2016 season, the hope was high that Oregon would be more than just competitive. They won their first two games and were ranked no. 22 by Week 3 and it seemed former Ducks coach Mark Helfrich had proved he could further the program’s domination.

However, that was far from the truth.

The Ducks’ defense could not stop anyone. For example, the Washington Huskies mopped the floor with them in a 70-21 win, and the Stanford Cardinal defeated them 52-27.

A surprise win over no. 11 Utah looked promising, but they never recovered from a slew of injuries that started the year.

The lack of success has cost Oregon seven committed players and Helfrich’s job.

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former Ducks coach Mark Helfrich (Photo via 247 sports)

What should we expect of the Ducks going forward? 

The Ducks will rebound with the hiring of former South Florida coach Willie Taggart, who has a record of turning programs around.

Taggart revitalized the USF program turning them into a 10-win football team.

At his previous job, he was able to turn a two-win Western Kentucky team into a bowl eligible team in just one season.

Clearly, Taggart has mastered the art of rebuilding. He has also surrounded himself with capable assistant coaches and coordinators that will make the transition for the program much easier.

One promising hire is former defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt from Colorado.

Leavitt has already had to rehabilitate another program, the Colorado Buffaloes. When he first arrived, Colorado had the no. 109 ranked defense. After last season, they were ranked as the no. 12 defense, per Football Outsiders. 

He switched the defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4, allowing the players more independence and flexibility. The defense included all sorts of tricks, and surprising blitz packages, but now teams should know what is coming.

It will be much more difficult now, but if anyone can do it, it is him.

This might prove to be the most important decision Taggart has made for the program. The Ducks desperately need veteran leadership to lead a new and improved defense.

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Photo via Steve Mitchell / USA Today Sports

Ducks recruiting

The Ducks have had some luck with recruiting in the past couple months, and although the results won’t show immediately, the future is bright.

Most impressively, Oregon landed former Clemson graduate defensive linemen Scott Pagano. He’s a 6-foot-4, 295-pound giant out of Clemson. Despite limited time on the field, he should be a powerful force for the Ducks’ D.

He had 93 tackles, eight for a loss, and 2.5 sacks in his 705 career snaps. In Oregon he’ll serve as a defensive anchor and will be a headache for opponents who rely on the run.

In the 2016 season, the Ducks only had one player to have more than 10 tackles for loss (Troy Dye), and they’re in sore need of more depth. Dye also had the most sacks with 5.5.

Also, the team was only able to force three fumbles all season.

The Ducks also snagged four-star cornerback Thomas Graham. Graham is ranked no. 6 in the nation at his position and no. 49 overall, according to the ESPN 300 rankings. He will provide help in the secondary, which Oregon desperately needs.

As a senior, Graham chalked up two interceptions (returned one for a touchdown), made 45 tackles, and had seven pass break-ups. The Under Armor All-American athlete also caught six touchdowns on 39 receptions for 490 yards in his last year.

As a team, the Ducks only had 10 interceptions during the entire 2016 season.

Three-star recruit Jordon Scott many also bolster the Ducks’ defensive. He is a 345-pound defensive tackle from Florida. Scott was ranked 51st in the nation at his position, per ESPN. During his senior season, he recorded 40 tackles with nine for loss and three sacks.

Oregon is looking for players with size, good instincts, and ability to put pressure on the quarterback. It seems Taggart may have found a few to help improve his new Oregon defense.

Four-star cornerbacks Deommodore Lenoir and Jaylon Redd will make good compliments to the rest of the defense heavy recruiting class.

Lenoir had previously decommitted from Oregon, but Taggart was able to woo him back upon being hired. The 191-pound cornerback had 52 tackles and one interception in his 2016 season earning a no. 15 ranking at his position by ESPN.

However, Rivals has him ranked as the number one cornerback.

Jaylon Redd, who can also play wide receiver, adds a whole new element to an increasingly dynamic Ducks team. Rivals rates him as the no. 8 at his position (classifying him as an ‘athlete’).

These new hires and recruits should be enough to alter Oregon’s crash course to the bottom. However, it remains to be seen how Taggart will handle the pressure of being the man at Oregon.


 

A version of this article was posted to the JR report in December, entitled “What’s Wrong with the Oregon Ducks?” It was posted right before the 2016 bowl season, in which Oregon was painfully absent. Now, it is updated with additional information and thoughts.

Final Four Preview: UNC’s size and depth too much for Oregon

Photo via Getty Images

No. 1 North Carolina Tarheels vs. No. 3 Oregon Ducks

NCAA Tournament – Final Four

April 1, 8:49 pm (ET) on CBS

University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona

Last week’s UNC-Kentucky game was the unofficial National Championship. I decided that whichever team came out on top in that nail-biter, I’d pick to win it all.

Predictions in the month of March are erratic, anyone can figure that out by looking at their bracket. Take my prediction with a grain of salt. Here are the keys to victory for both teams.

Oregon’s keys to victory

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional-Kansas vs Oregon
No. 5 Tyler Dorsey shushes the crowd (Photo via Denny Medley – USA Today Sports)

Ride the experience of Dorsey and Brooks

Guard Tyler Dorsey and forward Dillon Brooks are averaging more than 14 points per game this season. Dorsey, the point guard and leader, is a gritty player who embraces big moments. He’s been Oregon’s best weapon in the tournament, averaging 24.5 points per game.

Brooks, the 6 foot 7 forward, is clear-cut NBA talent. He hasn’t had a 20 point game in the tournament yet, but has been a solid force for the Ducks, scoring in the mid-teens and rebounding well.

Brooks will have to pick up the slack on offense for the Ducks to win this game.

Take advantage of the ankle

North Carolina’s Joel Berry II won’t be 100 percent on Saturday after rolling his ankle several times over the past few weeks; Dorsey should look to take advantage of his immobility.

For Oregon to have a chance tomorrow, Dorsey will need to score close to 30 points.

Rebound

The emergence of forward Jordan Bell gives Oregon a dynamic new weapon.

The one advantage that UNC has over everyone in the country is size. Bell will have to continue his dominance on the glass if Oregon wants to keep the game close. Bell has averaged almost four more rebounds per game in the tournament (12.5) than his season average (8.6).

Cause foul trouble

With Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks and Tony Bradley in the UNC front-court, Bell is going to have a tough day. In an effort to mitigate North Carolina’s size, Bell will need to go after Hicks to induce foul trouble.

If Oregon can reduce Hick’s minutes, Meeks and Bradley might struggle to stay in front of Brooks and Bell.

Small ball

To combat UNC’s size, Oregon will have to play small-ball. Oregon only has one quality big man, Bell, while the Tarheels have three. The Ducks need to quicken the pace of play, forcing UNC’s bigs to struggle going up and down the court. Dorsey and Brooks will flourish in an open-court environment.

UNC’s keys to victory

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No. 44 Justin Jackson is introduced at Chapel Hill (Photo via Inside Carolina)

Justin Jackson

Justin Jackson needs to continue his clutch play. UNC goes through stretches where they struggle to score because they lack shooters. Jackson’s their only star shooter, so he’ll need to hit threes and clutch shots to prevent the Tar Heels from just relying on short range baskets.

Size

UNC has the means to dominate the glass. Oregon only plays one person above six-nine, Bell, while the Tarheels play three. It’s a glaring mismatch, and the number one rebounding team in the country, UNC, needs to take advantage.

Despite UNC’s love for running and gunning, it makes sense for them to slow it down sometimes and throw it into the post. Oregon won’t be able to stop Meeks, Bradley and Hicks down low. Any foul trouble on Bell created by action down low would kill Oregon’s chances, too.

Depth

This is the main reason why I don’t see Oregon winning this game. If Oregon slows the game down, UNC’s size will take over. If Oregon speeds the game up to combat the Tarheel’s size, UNC’s depth will take over.

UNC consistently goes ten guys deep in a game, and those five bench players aren’t inept.

Campus legend, Luke Maye, has been rebounding and hitting shots left and right, including the game-winner against Kentucky.

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Tony Bradley provides an inside presence that will be hard to stop, and senior guard Nate Britt can provide rest for Berry.

North Carolina’s bench also features guard Stillman White, who played well for Berry in his absence, and guard Seventh Woods, a star in the making.

In their 74-60 win over Kansas, Oregon used just three players off the bench. Two of those three, Keith Smith and Kavell Bigby-Williams, combined for only nine minutes, one point, one assist and one rebound. The other sub, Casey Benson, played 21 minutes, scoring only four points and grabbing two rebounds.

Prediction

 

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No. 3 Kennedy Meeks will present a lot of trouble for Oregon’s (Chuck Liddy/ Raleigh News and Observer)

 

Oregon’s starting five might be great, but they lack size and depth. They’ve gotten away with it up to this point, but UNC boasts the best big men and the deepest team in the country.

Berry also said that his ankle is expected to be close to 100 percent. I doubt it is, but it shouldn’t have a huge impact on his play.

North Carolina may be the best team in the country and they match up well against Oregon. The Ducks could make it close, but the Tar Heels’ depth will ultimately overwhelm the Ducks.

 

What’s Wrong with Oregon?

Photo via Adam Eberhardt/Emerald

With bowl season just beginning and America’s tv’s tuned in to the great games this season, one team is very noticeably missing from the lineup: the Oregon Ducks.

This season definitely came as a surprise to most—yes, the Ducks lost famed QB Marcus Mariota in 2014, but then again, the Seminoles lost Jameis Winston and only missed a couple strides before finding their heads again. The Oregon Ducks have been a dominating force for a good number of years, and have only missed out on a bowl game once since 1997 in 2003.

The ducks went 4-8 this season with a conference record of 2-7, which starkly contrasts their storied 2014 season, which led them to the College Football Finals against Ohio State after a resounding win against the Seminoles in the semis. They dominated their conference, and made a statement that they were as strong as ever.

The Ducks didn’t have such a strong showing in 2015, but they definitely still made their mark; they went into the Alamo Bowl against a #11 TCU with nine wins under their belt and barely lost to the Horned Frogs. Even without Mariota and many of their defensive players, they managed to keep up the wins.

Going into the 2016 season, hope was high that the Ducks would continue being a cohesive and competitive program. They won their first two games and were ranked #22 by week 3—it seemed like the Ducks didn’t even need Mariota, and it seemed as if Mark Helfrich had proved he could further the program’s domination.

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AP Photo/Steve Dykes

So what the hell happened to the Ducks? 

It all started going downhill from there. It seemed as if they did indeed miss Mariota—they had become too comfortable with having him, and never quite found a suitable replacement. They started four separate quarterbacks since that 2014 season, and none found his stride in the hefty schedule that Oregon has set for itself.

More importantly, the Ducks defense suddenly lost all capability of holding their opponents’ offenses back. Looking at some of the blowout losses that Oregon was dealt, it’s easy to see this. Washington mopped the floor with them in a 70-21 win, and other PAC-12 opponent Stanford defeated them 52-27.

Oregon also sustained a slough of injuries throughout the year, and while they showed a hint of turning it all around in a surprise win against a #11 Utah program, they never recovered from their early losses and ended in a seriously disappointing season. Because of this season Oregon lost seven committed players, and Helfrich was unceremoniously fired despite his many earlier achievements.

What should we expect of the Ducks going forward? 

The Ducks may have been given a great opportunity to redeem themselves in the next several years with the hiring of USF coach Willie Taggart. Taggart is a talented coach with a record of turning programs around, if not a program as old and complex as UO.

Taggart turned a lagging USF program around, and while recruiting a strong backbone for the team also led them to a 10-2 season. For a more in-depth analysis, read my article ‘Don’t Overlook the USF Bulls.’ At his previous job, he was able to turn a 2-10 Western Kentucky team into a bowl eligible 7-5 team in just one year.

Clearly, Taggart has practice in this. He has also begun surrounding himself with capable assistant coaches and coordinators that will make the transition for the program much easier. With his recruiting he will make up for the damage that Helfrich caused, and with his hiring he will prove that he’s willing to collaborate and get his hands dirty to lift this program out of the muck. He is hungry for a win, and is fully confident in his abilities to get Oregon to where it needs to be in the next couple years.

One hopefully promising hire is Jim Leavitt from Colorado—Leavitt worked for a successful Colorado program as the defensive coordinator (and, it is important to note, he also worked at USF). This might prove to the the most important decision Taggart has made for the program yet, because the Ducks desperately need veteran leadership to head a new and improved defense.

Will these new hires be enough to alter Oregon’s crash course to the bottom? Perhaps, but it remains to be seen how Taggart will handle the pressure of such a weighty position in a power conference. Only time will tell if the Ducks will reclaim their spot at the top of football after such a resoundingly disappointing season.

College Football Week 12 Run Down

Photo via Getty Images

This week is definitely an off week for most of the top 10. With the exception of my predicted upset from Houston and the showdown between #8 Oklahoma and #10 West Virginia, all of the teams expect to hold their rankings and get ready for competitions down the road. The * denotes “good games to watch.”

#1 Alabama vs. Chattanooga — Winner: Alabama 

If the Crimson Tide doesn’t roll over Chattanooga, there’s a problem. While Bennifield is a strong QB, the Mocs can’t even begin to compete on the level of Saban’s franchise.

#2 Ohio State vs. Michigan State — Winner: Ohio State

In any other year, I wouldn’t be so quick to choose OSU as the winner of this matchup; after a surprisingly disastrous season, however, I don’t think the Spartans have nearly enough talent or momentum to come out on top.

* #3 Louisville vs. Houston — Winner: Houston 

On paper, this seems like a huge upset, but Houston has proven time and time again that they are more than a match for high ranking programs. After some good upsets earlier in the season, Houston lost a lot of the momentum they’d gained in a shocker vs. Navy. If their defense has a strong showing, I think the Cougars can be a hard team to beat.

#4 Michigan vs. Indiana — Winner: Michigan 

Michigan comes into the game with a strong defense that the Hoosiers will be unable to overcome. Indiana is still reeling after a loss to Penn State, and their hopes of bowl eligibility will only come to fruition with a win over Purdue, not Michigan.

#5 Clemson vs. Wake Forest — Winner: Clemson

The strong Tigers team will be more than a match for the Demon Deacons, and while Clemson will win I feel like Wake will put up more of a fight than anyone thinks. They held their own in the first half against Louisville, and Clemson undoubtedly has their loss to Pitt fresh in their minds.

#6 Wisconsin vs. Purdue — Winner: Wisconsin  

This’ll be a no-contest, bread and butter win for Wisconsin. The Badgers have proven their worth as a powerhouse football program this year and will have no problem taking care of Purdue’s mistake-prone offense.

* #7 Washington vs. Arizona State — Winner: Washington

I was almost tempted to predict an upset here. Washington fell to USC last week in an embarrassing loss, and now nurses a 9-1 record—amazing to be sure, but not where they would like to be right now. On the other hand, Arizona State is not nearly as powerful as a team as I expected they would be. At 5-5 with four straight losses, they simply do not have the momentum to punch through the hole opened up by Washington’s recent loss. ASU has won the last 10 matches against the Huskies, but this will break their streak.

#8 Oklahoma vs. #10 West Virginia — Winner: Oklahoma 

This is really the game to watch out for. Both teams are hoping for a Big 12 championship spot, and both have the right type of momentum coming into today’s game. WVU’s pass defense will prove to be a thorn in the Sooners’ side, and the Mountaineers will ride their home field advantage as far as they can. It’s gonna be a tough win for Oklahoma but I think they’ll pull it off. They have a strong offense and a 7-game winning streak to show for their effort this season. It’s going to be a very close game, and I expect it’ll be within 6 points by the time it’s over.

#9 Penn State vs. Rutgers — Winner: Penn State

Penn State will make short work of the 2-8 Rutgers squad. It never helped Rutgers that they had an extremely hard schedule this year, but there isn’t much of an excuse for a 2-8 team.

Non-Top 10 Games to Watch Out For

#11 Utah vs. Oregon — Winner: Utah

Remembering how good Oregon looked the last couple of years, it’s strange to reconcile that with their record. Plain and simple, the Ducks aren’t performing well at all. While this is the perfect spoiler game—the perfect game to call an upset for—I just don’t think the Ducks will be able to prevail. The Utes will have a hard time with this win because Oregon doesn’t seem very formidable at 3-7, but in the end, they’ll come out on top. Barely.