Can Oregon compete for a national championship in year two under Dan Lanning?
The first season under Dan Lanning for the Oregon Ducks was incredibly encouraging but showed that there is still a lot of room to improve going forward. While the Ducks finished with a 10-3 record and a Holiday Bowl win over the North Carolina Tar Heels, there were a couple of major bumps along the way, notably in losses to the Oregon State Beavers and Washington Huskies.
The Ducks rose to as high as No. 6 in the national rankings at one point but were derailed by an injury to QB Bo Nix late in the season. Despite the final outcome of the year, it’s clear that Oregon was incredibly close to competing for a spot in the College Football Playoff at the end of the season.
So, with a majority of their core players returning, and their up-and-coming head coach now having another year under his belt, the Ducks should be able to compete at the same level and potentially vie for a national championship appearance in 2023, right?
If you look at the ESPN Way-Too-Early Top 25, where Oregon ranks No. 9 going into the offseason, or take a peek at the early national championship betting lines, where the Ducks are tied for the 12th-best odds, that would be a fair assumption. However, 247Sports recently listed their 10 teams “with national championship potential” in 2023, and the Ducks were not on the list.
Is it because Oregon is going through a rebuild on the offensive line after losing four starters from the 2022 season? Maybe it’s the fact that offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham left to take the head coaching job at Arizona State, leaving UTSA’s Will Stein to take over and try to prove himself as the next great offensive mind to roll through Eugene. Doubters could also look at Oregon’s defense from 2022 and think that they have little chance of competing in the Pac-12 with the long list of top-tier quarterbacks returning next season.
All of those reasons are valid, and from an outside perspective, it’s somewhat understandable that viewers would need to see the Ducks prove themselves in these areas before believing in their ability to make it to the CFP.
For those who have been watching Lanning’s offseason moves this year, though — via the transfer portal and recruiting cycle — it’s also fair to believe that this could be the year where the Ducks put it together. Should they stay healthy down the stretch, it’s not hard to see them taking that next step, is it?
Many will want to see it before they believe it. Until then, here are the teams that have been dubbed “championship worthy” according to 247Sports:
Florida State Seminoles
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Ranking in ESPN Way-Too-Early Top 25: 4th
Betting Odds to Win 2023 CFP: +2,500 (Eleventh)
With Jorda Travis at quarterback, the Florida State Seminoles are a popular pick to contend for a title next year under Mike Norvell. They’re a preseason top-5 team, according to ESPN, and are projected to take Clemson to the mat in the ACC.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Ranking in ESPN Way-Too-Early Top 25: 8th
Betting Odds to Win 2023 CFP: +2,000 (Ninth)
There’s just something about current or former Pac-12 quarterbacks returning for another year, isn’t there? LSU’s Jayden Daniels — a former ASU QB — announced his return for the final year of eligibility in 2023, and should be able to lead an impressive Tigers offense in a tough SEC conference. LSU found themselves in the hunt for CFP spot late last year and could do it again this year as well.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Ranking in ESPN Way-Too-Early Top 25: 6th
Betting Odds to Win 2023 CFP: +2,000 (Eighth)
A lot of faith is being put into Penn State’s QB Drew Allar, a first-year starter who is taking over for Sean Clifford. James Franklin is a great head coach and should have his team ready to compete, but I want to see what the Nittany Lions can do under a new offensive leader before I’m ready to say they’re championship contenders in 2023.
Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Ranking in ESPN Way-Too-Early Top 25: 16th
Betting Odds to Win 2023 CFP: +2,000 (Seventh)
Will Arch Manning be all he’s hyped up to be? The truth is, we probably won’t even find out this season. I expect Quinn Ewers to be the QB for Texas in 2023, and if he can stay healthy, then the Longhorns have a good chance to be a top-10 team. Championship contenders, though? I’d like to see it first.
Ranking in ESPN Way-Too-Early Top 25: 15th
Betting Odds to Win 2023 CFP: +1,500 (Sixth)
With Cade Klubenik taking over the DJ Uiagalelei, the Clemson Tigers definitely look like they could make some noise in 2023. They are stacked with talent, but will also have to deal with Florida State, no longer having a cakewalk through the ACC like usual.
Ranking in ESPN Way-Too-Early Top 25: 3rd
Betting Odds to Win 2023 CFP: +1,000 (Fifth)
Michigan was oh-so-close to making it to the national championship in 2022, losing a heartbreaker, 51-45, to the TCU Horned Frogs. With QB J.J. McCarthy and RBs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards all returning, the Wolverines project to be one of the top teams in the nation once again next season.
(Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Ranking in ESPN Way-Too-Early Top 25: 7th
Betting Odds to Win 2023 CFP: +700 (Fourth)
USC’s Caleb Williams won the Heisman Trophy last season, and he could turn around and compete to be the first player to win the award in back-to-back seasons since Archie Griffin did so in 1974-75. If the Trojans can figure out their defense, then they absolutely should be near the top of the standings when the season comes to a close.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Ranking in ESPN Way-Too-Early Top 25: 5th
Betting Odds to Win 2023 CFP: +700 (Third)
You can never count out Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. Even with Bryce Young heading to the NFL, QB Jalen Milroe is expected to take over under center and lead another talented Alabama team. The Crimson Tide missed out on the CFP in 2022, but it may not be smart to bet on that to happen again this season.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ranking in ESPN Way-Too-Early Top 25: 2nd
Betting Odds to Win 2023 CFP: +600 (Second)
C.J. Stroud is gone, but the Buckeyes still have Marvin Harrison Jr., the best WR in college football, and an elite defense. Ryan Day should have his team up and running once again, and it’s a good bet that Ohio State will be back in playoff contention in 2023.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Ranking in ESPN Way-Too-Early Top 25: 1st
Betting Odds to Win 2023 CFP: +300 (First)
Georgia dominated the 2022 season, going a perfect 14-0 and waltzing to a 65-7 national championship win over TCU. 2023 looks like it could be just as easy for the Bulldogs, with one of the easier schedules in the nation and a roster that is as talented as any in the sport.