Head coach: Mario Cristobal (second year)
Last year’s record: 9-4 (5-4 Pac-12), Redbox Bowl win against Michigan State, 7-6
Final AP ranking: Unranked
Recruiting ranking: No. 7 (1 5-star, 11 4-stars, 14 3-stars)
First game: Aug. 31 against Auburn (Futures available on BetAmerica)
O/U win total: 9
Coming off a 9-4 season in his first year as head coach, Mario Cristobal is back with several key pieces in place. With the announcement quarterback Justin Herbert would return for his final collegiate season, the hype heading into 2019 began to build steadily.
Then Oregon nabbed wide receiver Juwan Johnson, a Penn State transfer, in the offseason. The two-year starter for the Nittany Lions sat out five games and suffered through injuries last year at Penn State, but his 2017 season showed his true worth, as he caught 54 passes for 701 yards.
Johnson should help replace wide receiver Dillon Mitchell (1,189 yards, 10 touchdowns in 2018), who was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in April. The Ducks also lost defensive end Jalen Jelks to the NFL but found someone capable of filling his shoes in ESPN’s No. 1-ranked overall player, defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Along with Thibodeaux, Oregon welcomes the No. 7 recruiting class in the nation, with 4-star linebacker Mase Funa and 4-star tackle Keyon Ware-Hudson adding to the mix of promising talent.
Troy Dye, Oregon’s leading tackler (115 total), is also back for the Ducks, as is senior La’Mar Winston (39 tackles), safeties Nick Pickett and Jevon Holland (5 interceptions), and cornerbacks Deommodore Lenoir (52 tackles, nine passes defended) and Thomas Graham (57 tackles, 18 passes defended and three interceptions). They will play under new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos, formerly of Boise State, who took over for Jim Leavitt in March, right before spring practice.
As for the run game, sophomores CJ Verdell (1,018 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Travis Dye (739 yards, four touchdowns) will carry the load. They’ll receive help from all five starting offensive linemen returning for the 2019 season.
Win total: Under 9 (-135), Over 9 (+110)
The season opener against Auburn is a tough call, but past that, Washington and Washington State pose the biggest challenges for Oregon. Last year the Ducks beat Washington at home and lost to Washington State on the road. Expect Oregon to win one of those and drop the other once again. If Oregon’s recruiting class is as good as advertised and the offense continues to click, the team could end up with a 10-win season. Take the over on the burgeoning Pac-12 squad.
Auburn vs. Oregon, Aug. 31
Auburn will start a new quarterback to open the season, but it’s uncertain whether redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood or incoming freshman Bo Nix will secure the job. Oregon has its answer, and a solid one at that. The Tigers defense may be a bit better, but the Ducks will find a way to score, regardless. Auburn is favored by 3.5, but look for Oregon to come out on top by a field goal.
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