Can the Ducks repeat as Pac-12 Champions?
For the 45th year in a row, Athlon Sports will release its in-depth preseason preview annual complete with coaching changes, behind the scenes features, scouting reports from within the locker room, pages of recruiting rankings, and most importantly, in-depth predictions and previews.
Each year, we order some pizza and lock ourselves in a room until all 120 teams have been hammered into place. And every year, there are some seriously heated discussions that result in not-so-cordial commentary.
The 2011 preseason top-25 countdown will begin with No. 25 on Monday May 2. But every day until then, we will offer the college football fan a peek behind the curtain at some of the most heated debates that we the editors at Athlon had to work through.
Check out all the debates linked below.
The Debate: Can the Oregon Ducks repeat as Pac-12 champions?
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
I think so. I would be a little hesitant if Jim Harbaugh was still at Stanford and the Cardinals had a few more playmakers at wide receiver. But I think you have to with the Ducks in the North. In a one game Pac-12 title game, anything can happen, but Oregon would be a strong favorite over USC or Arizona State.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
It certainly will be a popular selection amongst the prognosticators. The Stanford defense and coaching staff is going through a major transition, no matter how good the quarterback is. The Ducks are the clear favorite in the North Division. The South offers unique tests - depending on how the NCAA handles the USC situation. USC's loaded offense would put a lot of pressure on a totally reworked Oregon front seven - however, by the championship game one would think the pieces will have settled into place. Arizona State may not have enough firepower on offense to hang with the Ducks, but if they could keep the game in the teens (a la the way Cal did last year), they could pull the upset. The Devils already strong defense could get a late-season boost if all-everything corner Omar Bolden can return from a recently torn ACL (five-eight months recovery). All that said, even with the big issues on both lines for Oregon, the Ducks have to be considered the favorites in 2011.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Yes, Oregon will repeat as Pac-12 champs. Stanford stands to be Oregon's biggest challenger in the North division, but without Jim Harbaugh and three offensive line starters, I can't pick the Cardinal over the Ducks. The Ducks have some losses on both sides of the ball, but the offense returns enough weapons to simply outscore everyone in the conference. The South division is a tossup between USC or Arizona State and neither appear to be in position to challenge Oregon in 2011. The Ducks may not return to the national title in 2011, but I can't see anyone knocking them off as Pac-12 champs.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I think Oregon will repeat. The obvious candidate to unseat the Ducks as champion is Stanford. The Cardinal and top quarterback Andrew Luck will be solid in 2011 and get to host Oregon in November, but I think the loss of Jim Harbaugh (as well as top assistants Mark Roman and Vic Fangio) to the 49ers hurts Stanford’s chance to close the gap with the Ducks. I don’t see the next three best league teams – USC, Arizona State and Washington – having the firepower to keep up with the high-octane quack attack. Chip Kelly brings back Darron Thomas to run his high-scoring offense, and of course he’ll be handing the ball to All-America runner LaMichael James. The Ducks have recruited well enough to fill in losses at receiver, and they still have top return threat (as well as All-America corner) Cliff Harris. The only concern for Oregon will be replacing some of their front seven on defense, but that task becomes easier with the offense lighting up the scoreboard. Look for the Ducks to host and win first-ever Pac-12 Championship Game.
The real question is whether the Nike Ducks will win the BCS national title this season — and what highlighter color will the championship gear be? Phil Knight’s favorite team plays LSU at Jerry Jones’ house to kick off the season on Sept. 3. If LaMichael James, Darron Thomas and the rest of Chip Kelly’s crew can outrun the Bayou Bengals on the $1 billion big screen in Big D, then the Ducks will be on the fast track to No. 1 in the nation — with a favorable, home-heavy Pac-12 schedule that features a managable conference road slate (Arizona, Colorado, Washington and Stanford) before the first annual Pac-12 title game on Dec 3. It will be a letdown if the Ducks don’t smell roses as Pac-12 champs; but the real goal is a repeat appearance in the BCS national title game.
Debate: Who will win the SEC East in 2011?
Debate: Who is the top challenger to West Virginia in the Big East?
Debate: What is Ohio State's record after five games in 2011?
Debate: Who is the first-team All-Big 12 quarterback this year?
Debate: Who will finish second in the ACC Atlantic?
Debate: How far will Auburn fall in 2011?
Pre-order your team’s Athlon Sports cover here (athlonsports.com/store) and find out where Athlon has your team picked when the 2011 Top 25 countdown begins on Monday, May 2.