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Oregon Preview 2006
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Is Oregon back to the level it was at a few years ago when Joey Harrington was slinging it around, or was last year a one shot deal?

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

If it's possible, it's a little of both. Everything came together and the team got the right side of the good bounces on everything but the bowl bid. Missing out on a BCS bowl didn't overshadow the bounceback 10-1 season after slipping to a mediocre 5-6 in 2004, and while the team won't slide back down, it's not going to be as good as it was last season.

Granted, the team made most of its own breaks finishing tenth in the nation in turnover margin and getting clutch play after clutch play even after losing starting quarterback Kellen Clemens for the year with a broken ankle. But can the Ducks win every close game again?

Up until the Holiday Bowl loss to Oklahoma, Oregon went 4-0 in games decided by a touchdown or less with three straight close victories late in the year to stay alive in the Pac 10 race. It had the good fortune of catching Arizona State in a mourning period after a loss to USC, and it managed to miss the best UCLA team in some time. You can only beat who you play, but teams often don't get all the same breaks two years in a row.

Head coach: Mike Bellotti
12th year: 90-42
17th year overall: 111-67-2
Ten Best Duck Players
RB/KR Jon. Stewart, Soph.
2. S Patrick Chung, Soph.
FS J.D. Nelson, Sr.
4. QB Dennis Dixon, Jr. 
5. C Enoka Lucas, Sr.
6. OT Max Unger, Soph.
7. QB Brady Leaf, Jr.
8. WR Cameron Colvin, Jr.
9. DE Matt Toeaina, Sr.
10. WR James Finley, Sr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 Stanford
9/9 at Fresno State
9/16 Oklahoma
9/30 at Arizona State
10/7 at California
10/14 UCLA
10/21 at Washington State
10/28 Portland State
11/4 Washington
11/11 at USC
11/18 Arizona
11/24 at Oregon State

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 7-4
2005 Results: 10-2

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/1 Houston W 38-24
9/10 Montana W 47-14
9/17 Fresno State W 37-34
9/24 USC L 45-13
10/1 at Stanford W 44-20
10/8 at Arizona St W 31-17
10/15 Washington W 45-21
10/22 at Arizona W 28-21
11/5 California W 27-20 OT
11/12 at Wash State W 34-31
11/19 Oregon State W 56-14
12/29 Holiday Bowl
Oklahoma L 17-14

Even so, this team has enough potential and enough talent to hang with anyone in the Pac 10 and even be in the hunt for the title if all the planets align correctly. Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's offense appears to be on the verge of exploding with quarterbacks Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf combining forces to lead the attack and running back Jonathan Stewart about to live up to his immense potential behind the league's best offensive line. With all five starters returning up front, the quarterbacks will have time to work with an experienced receiving corps that should be a strength once a number one target emerges.

The league's best defense last year has some question marks needing to find a sure-thing pass rusher and hoping for the corners to shine right away in place of Justin Phinisee and Aaron Gipson. There aren't a lot of All-Pac 10 stars, if any, but there's a whole bunch of speed and athleticism in the back seven, and enough size up front to be strong against the run. 

While this is a talented enough team to have a good season, this might be a bit of a stepping-stone year to what should be a tremendous 2007 when almost all the key skill players return and the defense will be loaded with experienced depth and several options. 

For now, just getting back on the Pac 10 map is a plus. With the league getting better, and USC not going away any time soon, Oregon needs to show that it wasn't about to go the Washington route and crash and burn. However, this year could test the team's mettle and heart because ...

The Schedule: ... the opening seven games form a tough start to the season. For a team needing time for the corners to come together, Stanford isn't a great team to face right off the bat. At Fresno State is a landmine, Oklahoma will be a preseason top five team, at Arizona State is a nightmare, and at California is a downright killer. Follow that up by games against UCLA and at Washington State, and the team's season will be made or broken by the end of October. Washington and Arizona are winnable games, so it's a shame they're at home. At USC and at Oregon State will be round out the interesting slate..

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore RB Jonathan Stewart. The high school superstar ran for over 2,300 yards and 32 touchdowns in his senior year despite only playing in the first half of most games. After a true freshman year when he made more of an impact as a kickoff returner than a runner, now he'll get his chance to explode playing behind a huge, veteran offensive line.

Best Defensive Player: Sophomore Rover Patrick Chung. On the verge of Pac 10 stardom, Chang is a big hitter with the speed to play corner. Coming off a 91 tackle season, he has experience to do even more and make even more big plays. The sky's the limit for how good he can become.

Key player to a successful season: Redshirt freshman CB Willie Glasper. You can't win in the Pac 10 on a regular basis if you can't slow down the pass just a little bit. Glasper was a top recruit a few years ago and has to shine as a number one corner if the defense is going to be close to as good as last year.

The season will be a success if ... Oregon wins nine games. Duck fans will be hoping last year was the start of something big, but the schedule has too many pitfalls, and the team is too incomplete, to reasonably hope for a ten-win regular season. Nine wins would mean there will be at least one win over Oklahoma, at Arizona State, at Cal, and/or at USC.

Key game: Sept. 30 at Arizona State. The Sun Devils will have this game circled after last year's 31-17 home loss. The Ducks had better win or else the following week's game at Cal becomes a must-win to have any prayer of being in the Pac 10 title hunt.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- First quarter scoring: Oregon 109 - Opponents 68
- Sacks: Oregon 31 for 212 yards - Opponents 20 for 105 yards
- Interceptions: Oregon 23 for 212 yards - Opponents 10 for 105 yards

The Last Time Oregon…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Holiday Bowl vs. Oklahoma)
…missed a bowl game…2004
…pitched a shutout…2003 (Stanford)
…was shutout…1985 (Nebraska)
…scored 50 points…2005 (Oregon State)
…went undefeated…1916
…won a conference title…2001 (Pac 10)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…1998 (Akili Smith)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2004 (Terrence Whitehead)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2005 (Demetrius Williams)
…had a first-round draft choice…2006 (DT Haloti Ngata)

Related Stories
Oregon Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 8, 2006
Oregon Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by  Aug 8, 2006
Oregon Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by  Aug 8, 2006

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