Coming off of a 13-2 season in which they won the Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl, the Ducks are riding high into 2015, despite the fact that their without their Heisman-winning QB Marcus Mariota.
The Pac-12 Media poll won't be released until Thursday morning, but it's a safe assumption that the Ducks will once again be favored to capture the conference title. But why?
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SB Nation's Bill Connelly explored why the Ducks are still the favorites in the Pac-12 in a lengthy piece that is worth a read. Here is an except from the piece:
"The Pac-12 is as deep as it has ever been this year. Stanford isn't too many ifs from playing like a top-10 team again, and both UCLA and USC have top-5 potential. The Arizona schools could both play at a top-20 or top-25 level, Utah is top-40 at worst, and Cal, Washington State and Colorado all stand to improve.
But while we can talk about the Pac-12 South's depth and potential heavyweights, and we can weigh how strong Stanford might be with some defensive turnover, the Pac-12 champion resides in Eugene. And the Ducks return enough to make a pretty strong repeat run.
The secondary is a concern. We can assume steady quarterback play, it's just an assumption until proven otherwise. The offensive line is sturdy but less experienced. The front seven needs to raise its havoc game. But these are issues that will determine if Oregon is a Playoff-caliber team; the Ducks are going to be good no matter what.
If there are pieces Oregon needs to break in before it can become a Playoff-caliber squad, the schedule should help. The early trip to Michigan State is an obvious trial and potential loss. After that, the Ducks get tune-ups against Georgia State and four of the Pac-12's lesser teams. The late-season stretch is rough — trips to Arizona State and Stanford and a visit from USC — but the meat of the schedule comes after Oregon has had a chance to find itself.
Oregon is not a far-and-away favorite in the Pac-12, but the Ducks still begin 2015 as the favorites. Mark Helfrich's bunch will have some new faces but will still look like Oregon has looked for most of the last decade: deep, confident, and too fast for you."