Five Tough Tests as Ducks Turn the Page
The Oregon Ducks capped off the Chip Kelly era with a dominating Fiesta Bowl win over the Kansas State Wildcats in a rather dominant fashion.
But that was last season, and new Head Coach Mark Helfrich is going to face an interesting schedule in his first year.
1) At Virginia. This may be a suprise pick, but it's literally the first real test for Helfrich as a head coach. This was also supposed to be Nevada, but with a new coach themselves, the Wolfpack rescheduled the Ducks to a 2019 meeting. Oregon will be flying east to face the Cavaliers, who are looking to rebound after limping through most of the 2012 season.
2) Tennessee. This will be a match-up of new head coaches as Butch Jones is taking over for Derek Dooley. It's too early to tell if this will be a full spread team -- the type of offense Jones likes to run -- or if the Volunteers will be tinkering with the pro-style personnel that are currently in place there. Regardless, Jones knows how the spread works and with SEC-type bodies on defense, the Vols could bring the Ducks down.
3) California. The Golden Bears have been no slouch when facing the Ducks, but most of that can be attributed to former defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who is now at USC. New Head Coach Sonny Dykes will be bringing a better, more explosive offense than the slow, predictable, inaffective offense former top dog Jeff Tedford ran. As of now, I'd say take the over in this pairing.
4) UCLA. The new dominant power in Southern California has risen. Well, maybe not dominant, but definitely leader of the pack. After shocking most with a repeat Pac-2 South Title, the UCLA Bruins should only get better with another year in a 3-4 defense, led by Anthony Barr, and redshirt sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley. The biggest task will be dealing with the 3-4 defense, because the Noel Mazzone offense has seen plenty of it from his tenure at ASU.
5) At Stanford. The only team to beat the Ducks last year also stole the Pac-12 title and shot at the national championship. Spoiler alert: they're going to be three times as good this year. The Cardinal may acutally be the team to end the dominant SEC's reign in national titles. They Ducks held their own in regulation against Stanford last year, but fell short in overtime and won't be as fortunate with immaculate quarterback Kevin Hogan.
As offensive coordinator during the Kelly era, Helfrich is as up to speed with Chip's system as any human in the game. As such, the 2013 season for Oregon won't be about change, but adjustments made by its opponents. How Helfrich deals with them will be how he is measured.