Sure, it’s just July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our eighth annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last season’s four College Football Playoff semifinalists were rated Nos. 3, 6, 13 and 24 on our 2015 list.
Today’s team: No. 21 Oregon (Related coverage: Oregon wants to play defense this year too, and that’s no Hoke)
The Ducks will contend if … they improve a dreadful defense while adjusting to a new quarterback who may have ties to the Austin area. Oregon had been ranked fourth, second and fifth in this poll over the past three years, so will the Ducks have the last quack?
INSIDE THE DUCKS
Coach: Mark Helfrich (fourth year, 33-8)
2015: 9-4, 7-2 in the Pac-12; lost to TCU in the Alamo Bowl 47-41
Returning starters: 6 offense, 6 defense
The key game: Nov. 12 vs. Stanford
Hello: RB Royce Freeman, DL Henry Mondeaux, QB Dakota Prukop
Goodbye: OL Tyler Johnstone, WR Bralon Addison (Denver Broncos), DE DeForest Buckner (San Francisco 49ers)
Spring cleaning: Oregon’s biggest off-season acquisition was Prukop, a transfer who threw for 3,025 yards and rushed for 797 yards at Montana State in 2015. … The Ducks’ 2016 recruiting class was ranked 28th in the country by 247Sports’ composite ratings. … The 49ers used their first-round pick on Buckner, while linebacker Joe Walker was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles in the seventh round.
Passing: Jeff Lockie, 61-99-580 yards, 5/4 (2nd)
Rushing: Royce Freeman, 283-1,836-17 (1st)
Receiving: Darren Carrington, 32-609-6 (2nd); Dwayne Stanford, 30-463-5 (3rd)
Tackles: DB Tyree Robinson, 64 (4th)
Sacks: DL Henry Mondeaux, 4 (3rd)
RETURNING ALL CONFERENCE (4)
Offense: RB Royce Freeman (1st team), K Aidan Schneider (1st), WR Darren Carrington (2nd)
Defense: DB Tyree Robinson (honorable mention)
- Oregon will have a new starting quarterback for a second straight season; the Ducks will either roll with Travis Jonsen, a redshirt freshman from California, or Prukop, a 2012 Vandegrift graduate who starred at Montana State the past two seasons. Prukop outplayed Jonsen in the spring game that saw Lockie, the Ducks’ long-time backup quarterback, find playing time in the receiving corps.
- The Ducks had the seventh overall pick in the NFL Draft on their defensive line in 2015, but that didn’t help much since Oregon boasted the Pac-12’s worst defense and set a school record for points allowed per game. Brady Hoke, who led Michigan’s football program from 2011-14, will take over as the Ducks’ defensive coordinator after Don Pellum was demoted following the Alamo Bowl loss to TCU — the Ducks blew the 31-0 halftime lead.
- Oregon has boasted a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last nine seasons, and Freeman helped the Ducks reach that milestone in 2014 and 2015. Freeman set Oregon’s single-season rushing record of 1,836 yards in 2015, and the junior needs only 1,882 yards to surpass LaMichael James atop the school’s all-time rushing charts.
Oregon's 2016 schedule
|Date||Opponent||Last yr's result (if played)|
|Sept. 3||UC Davis|
|Sept. 17||at Nebraska|
|Sept. 24||Colorado*||W, 41-24|
|Oct. 1||at Washington State*||L, 45-38|
|Oct. 8||Washington*||W, 26-20|
|Oct. 21||at Cal*||W, 44-28|
|Oct. 29||Arizona State*||W, 61-55|
|Nov. 5||at USC*||W, 48-28|
|Nov. 12||Stanford*||W, 38-36|
|Nov. 19||at Utah*||L, 62-20|
|Nov. 26||at Oregon State*||W, 52-42|
|* Pac-12 game|
Oregon: The last 5 years
|2015||9-4 / 7-2||7th / 9th||Alamo Bowl, L|
|2014||13-2 / 8-1||3rd / 2nd||CFP title game, L|
|2013||11-2 / 7-2||3rd / 9th||Alamo Bowl, W|
|2012||12-1 / 8-1||5th / 2nd||Fiesta Bowl, W|
|2011||12-2 / 8-1||3rd / 4th||Rose Bowl, W|
|Total||57-11, 38-7||6 bowl games (4-2)|
2015 NATIONAL RANKS
Scoring: 5th (43.0 ppg)
Scoring defense: 115th (37.5 ppg)
Passing yards: 36th (258.3 ypg)
Rushing yards: 5th (279.9 ypg)
TOP 25 SO FAR …
No. 21: Oregon
No. 20: Coming Monday. Want a hint? This school produced NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor.
2 schools: Pac-12 (21-Oregon, 25-Washington State)
1 school: ACC (23-Louisville); Big 12 (22-Oklahoma State); Mountain West (24-Boise State)