Early predictions for Oregon Ducks 2014 football schedule: 10-2

Early predictions for Oregon Ducks 2014 football schedule: 10-2
May 29, 2014, 2:15 pm
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Oregon Ducks running back Byron Marshall (9) carries the ball against the Washington Huskies during the game at Husky Stadium. Oregon defeated Washington 45-24.

(Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)

The start times for some of Oregon’s football games next season have been released, so given that there’s not much else to write about, why not take a stab at some early score predictions?

Actually, a plethora of reasons exist against engaging in such an exercise but since when does practicality matter when posting predictions during the offseason?

Oregon's national title window remains open with the team returning enough talent, including quarterback Marcus Mariota, to make a run at being invited to the four-team playoffs.

But it's difficult to believe that this team is better than the teams of the past two seasons. So while I could see Oregon winning each game on the schedule, the smart money is on them stumbling once, if not twice. So I'm going with a prediction of 10-2 for the Ducks in 2014.

However, pinpointing those stumbles is quite difficult. Huge underdogs have ended the Ducks' national title hopes in each of the past three seasons.

Oregon's three losses over the past two seasons (Stanford in 2012, Stanford and Arizona in 2013) came with the Ducks being favored by a combined 46 points.

In 2011, a season after UO went to the BCS national title game, the Ducks lost the opener to LSU in Dallas, Texas but still had an outside shot at returning to the national title game before losing at home to USC, a 14.5-point underdog.

With questions at wide receiver and facing the challenge of replacing a host of defensive linemen and defensive backs, the Ducks have some concerning holes. But they should remain quite formidable. If Oregon patches up these potential weaknesses, the Ducks could be sitting at 12-0 by the end of the regular season.

History, however, suggests that them doing so is not very likely. 

Saturday, Aug. 30: vs. South Dakota, 7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks – The annual small-school beatdown features the Coyotes signing up for a butt whoopin’.  And what a butt whoopin’ it could be. South Dakota went 4-8 last season. Oregon should do all of us a favor and start its second-string across the board in order to make the game semi-close for at least the first quarter. That won’t happen. Still, the Ducks have typically been merciful against smaller programs and will “only” win 61-13.

Saturday, Sept. 6: vs. Michigan State, 3:30 p.m., FOX/FOX Deportes – In what could be considered the biggest non-conference game ever played at Autzen Stadium, the Ducks will face a serious foe with a defense capable of giving them fits. This will be the first test to see if last year’s four-game stumble by the offense at the end of the season has been rectified. The Spartans were 13-1 last season and ended the year with wins over No. 2 Ohio State (34-24) and a 24-20 victory against No. 5 Stanford in the Rose Bowl. The same Stanford that has owned Oregon the past two seasons. Oregon will need young wide receivers to emerge in order to win this game. For now, I'm calling this game a loss. MSU 31-27.

Saturday, Sept. 13: vs. Wyoming, 11 a.m., Pac-12 Networks. – Breakfast, anyone? Might be the earliest kickoff ever at Autzen, which won’t be so bad since most in attendance could be asleep by the second quarter anyway. The Cowboys went 4-7 last year and allowed four teams not named Oregon to score more than 50 points. Uh oh! Ducks 54-20.

Saturday, Sept. 20: at Washington State, Pullman, Wash., time TBA – The Cougars demonstrated great improvement last year and threw for a ton of yards against the Ducks. But their defense remains under construction so UO shouldn’t have much trouble. Ducks 42-24.

Thursday, Oct. 2: vs. Arizona, 7:30 p.m., ESPN – The first revenge game of the season features the Wildcats at home. Arizona throttled the reeling Ducks, 42-16 last year to end any chance of going to the national title game. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez has the Wildcats' offense going in the right direction and they should be productive against Oregon. Just not enough to overcome a UO team that should be seeing red against the Wildcats. UO 44-27.

Saturday, Oct. 11 at UCLA, Pasadena, Calif., time TBA – The Bruins are an up-and-coming program that went 10-3 last season. This is a troublesome game for the Ducks and one that they will lose if the wide receiver position is not solidified. UCLA has the athletes to matchup and quarterback Brett Hundley will be a year older and wiser. Bruins 37-33.

Saturday, Oct. 18 vs. Washington, time TBA. – The Huskies had their chance to take down the Ducks last season but failed miserably. Now they start over with new coach Chris Petersen, who had great success at Boise State and twice defeated Oregon. He will likely need some time to get things rolling at UW, however. Ducks 39-23.

Friday, Oct. 24 at California, Santa Clara, Calif., 7 p.m., FOX Sports 1 – The Golden Bears got rid of Jeff Tedford following a 3-9 season in 2012 and promptly went 1-11 last season. The rebuild continues in 2013. Ducks 44-13.

Saturday, Nov. 1 vs. Stanford, time TBA – I guarantee that the Ducks, despite all of their "every game is the Super Bowl" talk, will have this game circled on their calendar. Mariota probably has it circled with a bull’s-eye. He admitted last season to having a chip on his shoulder from the 2012 loss. Said “chip” must be the size of a small country by now. Fortunately for Oregon, Stanford lost a ton of players on defense so maybe, just maybe, the Ducks will end a two-game losing streak against the Cardinal. UO 31-17.

Nov. 8 at Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, time TBA – The Utes went 5-7 last year but hung around bit with the Ducks, losing 44-21 at Autzen. Let’s go 40-24 for UO this season.

Saturday, Nov. 22 vs. Colorado, Time TBA – Colorado improved last year to 4-8 from 1-11 the previous season. The Buffaloes will need much more time to reach Oregon’s level. Ducks 47-13.

Saturday, Nov. 29 at Oregon State, Corvallis, time TBA. – The Beavers almost pulled off the upset at Autzen last year and with quarterback Sean Mannion back will look to end its six-game losing streak against the Ducks. OSU will have a shot, but UO will get it done, 42-27.