Three head coaches in three seasons is never an ideal scenario, yet that’s exactly the situation the Oregon Ducks find themselves in heading into 2018. Coaching staff continuity has been something Oregon relied heavily upon in the past and while it has a new coach in 2018, Cristobal isn’t totally new.
Since Cristobal was on staff and kept a lot of the staff together, things may feel a bit similar for the players. But he is in a different role now, so there will certainly be some changes and a learning curve as well.
Ducks 2018 regular season win total
Over 7.5 (-110)
Under 7.5 (-120)
Odds courtesy of BetDSI Sportsbook.
What Happened Last Year
Oregon raced out to a 4-1 start, was full of momentum and looked ready to compete in the Pac-12 North. Then, Justin Herbert got hurt. The Ducks struggled without their starting quarterback as the offense stagnated during a rough 1-4 stretch. Once Herbert returned, Oregon won its final two games before Boise State crushed the Ducks in the Las Vegas Bowl.
While the middle of the season put a damper on the overall record, there were some important developments in 2017. When thinking about Oregon, people typically think offense, but defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt had a tremendous impact on the defense. Under Leavitt’s leadership, the defense allowed 369 yards per game after giving up 518 yards per game in 2016.
What Will Change This Year
Things appear to be set up nicely for the Ducks in 2018. Cristobal will get to ease into his new role as the Ducks should start the season 3-0 with non-conference home games against Bowling Green, Portland State and San Jose State. Oregon then hosts Stanford, so the Ducks won’t have to hit the road until week five. Oregon also gets a bye week before a tough test at Washington and closes the season with winnable games against Arizona State and Oregon State.
The defense, led by Troy Dye, will be in year two under Leavitt, which will likely lead to more improvements.
Health will be one of the biggest issues to monitor with the Ducks as they have struggled in each of the past two seasons when the starting quarterback has gone down. If Herbert, who threw for 1,750 yards and 13 touchdowns (with just three interceptions) is healthy all season, expect big things from the Ducks. Royce Freeman has departed and it will be interesting to see how Tony Brooks-James fares as he transitions to a new role of being the lead back. But running back has been a staple at Oregon and the team always seems to have depth in that area.
Outlook & Prediction
The Ducks have won eight or more games in nine of 11 seasons, but haven’t reached that number since 2015. That being said, a healthy Herbert and a manageable schedule should result in a strong season for the Ducks. Oregon isn’t likely to win the Pac-12 North, but expect them to compete — an eight- or nine-win season seems likely. Bet the over.
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