TEAMS THAT COULD BREAK THE SEC'S BCS STREAK
NO. 2, OREGON
Alabama vs. Oregon would have been a title game matchup for the ages. Notre Dame deserved the shot, but everyone knows – especially after seeing Notre Dame play Alabama – that the Ducks would have given the Crimson Tide a better game.
The Ducks, aside from one off night against a very good Stanford team, were a dominant college football team. Hopefully, Oregon can reach the end of the trail this year and play a SEC team in the BCS Championship Game (because, let's face it, someone from the SEC is going to be waiting).
The good thing is, the Ducks are loaded again this season.
There are only 17 teams in FBS that return more than Oregon's 15 starters. And we know the kind of talent the Ducks have amassed over the past few years. They have taken advantage of being one of the hot programs on the West Coast.
Oregon is one of the few programs in the nation that isn't intimidated by "SEC speed." They lose running back Kenjon Barner, but the Ducks have shown an ability to churn out great running backs. Oregon has a quarterback in Marcus Mariota who could win a Heisman Trophy. And the difference with Oregon last year was the defense was decidedly better. A lot of the points they allowed came in garbage time. Seven starters return off that defense. There are no obvious weak areas.
Point differential is a pretty good measure of a team's true strength. Oregon's point differential was plus-28 per game last season. For comparison, undefeated Ohio State's point differential was 14.3 per game. Alabama's differential was 27.8 points per game, albeit playing in a much tougher conference. That's not to say the Ducks were better than the Crimson Tide. But they were really good.
The wild card is Mark Helfrich. It's impossible to put a proper value on what Chip Kelly did for Oregon before he left to the NFL. He's an offensive genius. But we've seen in the past where a coach leaves and the replacement does pretty well, or at least keeps the train rolling for a couple years. Call the latter the Tubby Smith/Larry Coker scenario.
If Helfrich does well, the Ducks stay relatively healthy and Mariota becomes a superstar at quarterback – which looks like a likely outcome based on his freshman year – Oregon will get another crack at the SEC in a title game, after losing to Auburn a little more than two years ago. It would have been nice to see that last year, but better late than never.
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