Oregon football rode the proverbial roller coaster in 2021.
A season that kicked off with earnest College Football Playoff expectations, strengthened by an impressive Week 2 win at Ohio State, crashed down after a loss to struggling Stanford. A series of near-misses in Pac-12 play set the scene for a wild few weeks in which the Ducks lost blowout decisions to Utah — twice — then lost their head coach to Miami.
With Mario Cristobal headed back to his alma mater, Oregon athletic brass stayed in the extended Nick Saban coaching tree with the hire of Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning.
Related: Oregon 2022 Spring Preview
Lanning's tenure opens, oddly enough, against the program he helped win a national championship last season. The Week 1 matchup with Georgia sets the tone for a challenging slate in a new era for the Ducks.
Oregon Ducks' 2022 Schedule
Bye: Week 7
Week 1 — Sept. 3 vs. Georgia (Atlanta)
Oregon heads into a de facto road game against the defending national champions. As far as first impressions, Lanning should not be judged too harshly if the Ducks struggle against the Bulldogs — if anything, it should be a testament to what the new head coach can build — but should Oregon do the improbable and win? It doesn't get much better for a first impression.
Week 2 — Sept. 10 vs. Eastern Washington (Eugene, Ore.)
Eastern Washington has consistently boasted some of the most prolific passing and scoring offenses at any level of college. The Eagles are perennial contenders for both an FCS playoffs berth and Big Sky Conference championship. While it's different personnel and a different head coach (Aaron Best) than when these teams met in 2015, Oregon can again expect a potent offense to visit Autzen Stadium.
Week 3 — Sept. 17 vs. BYU (Eugene, Ore.)
A perfect record against Pac-12 competition last season was a highlight of BYU's strong 2021 campaign. After flirting with playoff contention the last couple of years, the Cougars will again look to break through the glass ceiling. A win over Oregon in Autzen would go a long way toward helping their cause.
Week 4 — Sept. 24 at Washington State (Pullman, Wash.)
From 2015 through 2018, Washington State won every matchup with Oregon. The Cougars gave the Ducks all they could handle again in 2019, almost derailing UO's return to the Pac-12 mountaintop. Oregon has won the last three, including the past two by margins of two touchdowns each.
Week 5 — Oct. 1 vs. Stanford (Eugene, Ore.)
The Pac-12's preeminent rivalry in the 2010s added perhaps its most stunning installment in 2021 when Stanford rattled Oregon's College Football Playoff plans.
In what was the worst season of David Shaw's tenure on The Farm, the win over Oregon was the decided high point. The Ducks have a serious receipt to offer up in the return match, but the Cardinal should be improved from 2021 with one of the most experienced rosters returning of any program in the Pac-12.
Week 6 — Oct. 8 at Arizona (Tucson, Ariz.)
The Ducks trounced Arizona in each of the last two meetings, but Tucson has been the site of some of the most befuddling outcomes in Oregon's history this century. UA is undergoing a major rebuild with head coach Jedd Fisch, and UO comes into Arizona Stadium at the end of a brutal first month for the Wildcats.
Week 8 — Oct. 22 vs. UCLA (Eugene, Ore.)
Chip Kelly returns to Eugene for the third time since returning to the Pac-12 at UCLA, and he does so in 2022 with what should be, far and away, his best Bruins team. Their Pac-12 title bona fides will be tested in just the kind of marquee matchup that had eluded UCLA predating Kelly's arrival.
Week 9 — Oct. 29 at Cal (Berkeley, Calif.)
The tough-nosed, defensive style that Cal employs has given Oregon fits in recent years. Last season, the Golden Bears went into Autzen on a Friday night and nearly scored the upset. The 2022 campaign is a pivotal one for Cal under Justin Wilcox, so the UO alum will return to his former home looking for a statement win heading into the regular season's final stretch.
Week 10 — Nov. 5 at Colorado (Boulder, Colo.)
After emerging as one of the surprise teams of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Colorado regressed dramatically in 2021. So will the 2022 Buffaloes look more reminiscent of the team that was in contention for the Pac-12 South title two years ago, or will Oregon be heading into Boulder with CU again well out of contention?
Week 11 — Nov. 12 vs. Washington (Eugene, Ore.)
Bitter rival Washington comes to town, also in Year 1 under a new head coach. Kalen DeBoer's Fresno State Bulldogs gave Oregon fits in Week 1 of the 2021 season. His arrival in Seattle marks the beginning of a rebuilding project after the surprisingly short run of head coach Jimmy Lake, but the cupboard is hardly bare at UW.
Week 12 — Nov. 19 vs. Utah (Eugene, Ore.)
A rematch of the 2019 and 2021 Pac-12 Championship Games could shape the 2022 edition. Utah reloads and looks like the class of the South, while Lanning's talented roster should once again be the team to beat in the North if all the potential meshes by this late juncture in the season.
Week 13 — Nov. 25 at Oregon State (Corvallis, Ore.)
The rivalry formerly known as the Civil War has regained much of its luster after Oregon's dominance in the previous decade. The Pac-12 North was at stake in last season's meeting, which Oregon won to exact a measure of revenge for the Beavers' 2020 win on a foggy Black Friday night.
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— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @KyleKensing.