We are now less than a week away until the start of the 2021 season for the Oregon Ducks. Much of the college football world got the ball rolling on Saturday in Week 0 of action, and while it was nice to get a taste of the great sport once again, the real main course is yet to come.
For the Ducks, it all kicks off with a much-welcomed return to Autzen Stadium as a gathering of raucous fans convenes to enjoy their favorite team once again after a year away in 2020.
As we get ready for this coming season, though, what exactly can we expect? By all means, the Ducks are projected to be one of the premier teams in the nation once again, with many predictions to finish atop the Pac-12 conference and return to the Rose Bowl. We wanted to go a little bit deeper, though, and take a microscope to each individual game.
Here are our game-by-game predictions for the 2021 season:
September 4th: Vs. Fresno State Bulldogs
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Prediction: Oregon wins big Many fans may be looking past the Ducks' Week 1 game against Fresno State and focusing on the main attraction in Ohio State, but you can guarantee that Mario Cristobal and his guys aren't going to treat this game lightly. That was emphasized even more by Fresno State's 45-0 win over UConn in Week 0. The Ducks are remade and ready to turn some heads this season with a roster that is completely stacked with top-end talent at every position. It's all going to start with Fresno State on Saturday morning, with a chance to play in front of a packed stadium for the first time in well over a year. Expect Oregon to run away with this one and get a litany of young players onto the field for some much-needed game experience.
September 11th: At Ohio State Buckeyes
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Prediction: Oregon loses a close one All summer long, we've been trying to keep reasonable expectations when it comes to this game. The new vote of confidence from members of the ESPN College Gameday crew is making that tough to do. While the Ducks are still considered massive underdogs to the Buckeyes, there should be some confidence that they can keep this game close and have a chance at winning outright in the end. With a dominant defense that could create game-changing plays, Oregon is likely never to be truly out of a game this season. This marquee matchup is going to tell us everything we need to know about this team.
September 18th: Vs. Stony Brook Seawolves
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Prediction: Oregon wins big All do respect to Stony Brook, but it's a great thing that this game comes after the trip to Columbus. With such a big game coming in Week 2 of the season, there are likely to be some exhausted and banged-up players on Oregon's sideline, and they get what is likely to be the easiest game on the schedule right after. Expect the Ducks to get out to a quick lead and rest starters throughout the second half.
September 25th: Vs. Arizona Wildcats
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Prediction: Oregon wins big Any conference game is going to get a good amount of attention from the Ducks, but a matchup against Arizona just doesn't scare you like it used to. While they have had some trouble putting away the Wildcats in the past, on paper this should be one of the easier games of the season for the Ducks. However, memories of Zona playing the role of giant-killers will at least have Oregon playing with their ears perked for this one in a conference opener.
October 2nd: At Stanford Cardinal
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Prediction: Oregon wins a close one Aside from Ohio State, this game down in Palo Alto is likely the first one that will really get the full attention that it deserves from the Ducks. That's not to say that the Ducks will be looking past any of their other opponents, but a road game against Stanford truly is a losable game. Oregon and Stanford have definitely grown accustomed to raining on each other’s parades. When one team is near the top of the rankings and pushing for a Rose Bowl or a spot in the College Football Playoff, the other finds it necessary to come in and put an end to that. This year looks like it could be no different, but the game takes place early in the season, which could give whichever team loses some time to recover and claw their way back up in the rankings.
October 15th: Vs. California Golden Bears
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Prediction: Oregon wins comfortably Cal is a better team than they have been in the past thanks to the leadership of head coach Justin Wilcox, but they still aren’t at the level of ‘contender’ in the Pac-12. They could absolutely give Oregon some trouble if things break the right way, but the Ducks should be able to handle business here at home.
October 23rd: At UCLA Bruins
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Prediction: Oregon wins big There seems to be some buzz that the UCLA Bruins might be a sleeper team in the Pac-12 this season, capable of knocking off some of the top teams. I don't think that Oregon will take that lightly, looking to go into Los Angeles and put it on Chip Kelly and the Bruins. UCLA feels pretty synonymous to Cal when it comes to the product on the field, but this matchup gets a boost because of the presence of Chip Kelly on the opposite sideline. The beloved former Oregon coach draws some mixed feelings from Duck fans, but as long as the green and yellow come out on top in this matchup, things should stay relatively peaceful.
October 30th: Vs. Colorado Buffaloes
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Prediction: Oregon wins big The Buffs had their moment in the sun a few years ago when they stomped Oregon at Autzen, but it’s hard to imagine the same will be true again this year, with Colorado largely being picked to finish near the bottom of the conference. This midseason game shouldn’t be a big problem for Oregon.
November 6th: At Washington Huskies
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Prediction: Oregon wins a close one There are only a handful of games on the Ducks schedule that feel like they could truly give Oregon trouble, and this game in Seattle is certainly one of them. The Huskies are one of the best teams in the conference, and the time-tested rivalry and hatred between both schools are always ripe for drama. Trash talk aside, the Huskies will have revenge on their minds this season, with the last meeting between the two teams coming back in 2019 with the Ducks beating them up in Seattle, giving Troy Dye a chance to turn the ‘W’ down in the Dawgs house. What a beautiful moment.
November 13th: Vs. Washington State Cougars
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Prediction: Oregon wins comfortably The Washington State Cougars are likely a lot better than many Oregon fans give them credit for. The team that became synonymous with losing in a terrible fashion — ‘Coug-ing it’ — has gotten the best of the Ducks in four of the past six seasons, and stand as what could potentially be a big trap game for Oregon, sandwiched between trips to face the Washington Huskies and Utah Utes.
November 20th: At Utah Utes
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Prediction: Oregon loses a close one No team has ever run the table in the Pac-12, and I think that fact will stay true throughout the 2021 season, though it will be close. After what is likely to be an emotional trip to Seattle, followed by what isn't a gimme game against the Cougars at home, the Ducks are going to be asked to travel to Salt Lake late in the season and play in extreme altitude when injuries could easily be a factor. The Utes are no slouch this season, and Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham is certainly going to have his team in peak form this year. If both teams have a year like they are currently planning, a top-15 or top-25 matchup could be in store.
November 23rd: Vs. Oregon State Beavers
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Prediction: Oregon wins big This just doesn't feel like an Oregon team that is going to allow the Beavers to hang around, does it? The last meeting between Oregon and Oregon State ended in a loss for the Ducks, and fans in Eugene have spent the last several months doing nothing but waiting for their chance to put the little brother from Corvallis back in his place. On paper, this isn’t a huge matchup, but rivalry games carry weight, and a lot of bragging rights and bad blood will stem from this weekend.
Our Predicted Finishing Record: 10-2
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In our opinion, the Ducks have a clear shot to make it back to the Pac-12 Championship game this season, where they will likely face either USC or Utah. This prediction could change a bit if injuries are a major factor for Oregon, causing them to slip against Washington or Washington State along the way. However, we feel good that in the end, Oregon can make it back to the Rose Bowl, and if they do ultimately defy history and run the table in the conference, there's a real chance that a berth in the College Football Playoff becomes possible once again.