10 teams that could win it all in ’13: Oregon

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will be a key piece in a national title run for the Oregon Ducks. (AP Photo/Brian Davies)
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will be a key piece in a national title run for the Oregon Ducks. (AP Photo/Brian Davies)

Between now and the start of college football season, I’ll present you with 10 college football teams that have a realistic chance to win the national title this year. Today, the series continues with Oregon.

Oregon Ducks (2013 schedule)
2012 record: 12-1
Fiesta Bowl champions (defeated Kansas State 35-17)

Why they could win it all: The Ducks were inches — literally — from an undefeated 2012, which would have put them in the national championship game. An overtime field goal just missed in their game against Stanford, and the Cardinal took the win and Oregon’s dreams of a national title.

A squad that was so close to the big game and returns lots of key pieces has to be considered armed and dangerous.

That’s exactly how we should look at Oregon. Head coach Chip Kelly, who left at the end of last season to take the same job with the Philadelphia Eagles, built this team for speed. They’re still going to be one of the fastest teams in the nation in 2013, if not the fastest.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota returns for his sophomore year, prepared to turn Pac-12 defenses into his own personal playground once again. The scary thing? He’s working on becoming a better passer. If that running game (No. 3 in the nation with 315.2 yards per game in 2012) gets a complimentary passing game that is equally dangerous, there’s no telling how good the Ducks could be this season.

The defense is also getting plenty of praise from defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, whose defenses have been overshadowed by the flashy offenses in past years. That might not be the case this season, writes The Oregonian.

Finally, the Ducks’ schedule is quite favorable. After they dismantle Nicholls State in the season-opener, Oregon will play two very intriguing games — one on the road against Virginia, followed by a home game against Tennessee. The Ducks shouldn’t be in danger of losing either one, but both will be a good barometer of how dominant they will be in 2013.

(More in this series: Why Alabama could win it all | Ohio State)

Why they might not win it all: Speaking of that schedule — later in the season, Oregon has one game in which they might not even be favored. A Thursday night tilt against Stanford on Nov. 7 should definitely be the toughest game of Oregon’s regular season. Being the visiting team for a Thursday night game is difficult enough, but when it’s a top-10 football team hosting that game, it becomes very worrisome.

And let’s not discount the loss of their head coach, “Big Balls Chip.” I didn’t give him that nickname. He earned it over years of displaying an “I don’t give an ‘eff'” attitude in playcalling that made Oregon such a force in the national picture. Oregon’s new head coach, Mark Helfrich, used to run said offense, so the attitude should still be similar. But head coaching transitions aren’t always seamless, and it could leave the Ducks on the outside looking in, yet again, when it comes time for the BCS Championship game.

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