Pac 10

2011 Football Predictions: Oregon Ducks

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.

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<p> The Athlon editors debate if the Oregon Ducks can repeat as conference champions?</p>

'11 Team Rankings: Pac-12

How did the class of 2011 shake-out in the Pac-12?

The addition of Utah and Colorado has added two large states for talent to the west coast conference’s footprint. Both states produce quality athletes that most Pac-10 schools have already been recruiting for years. Colorado will likely need some time – and maybe some new facilities and dedication from its alumni base – before it begins to assert itself on the recruiting trail.

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<p> Athlon takes a look at the team recruiting rankings from around the nation. Today, we look at the Pac-12.</p>

'11 Predictions: Pac-12

New-look Pac-12 could offer some interesting football in 2011.
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Athlon takes a way too early look at the Pac-12 conference in 2011.

In the South Division, the traditional powers could be taking a back seat to a team that has won a total of six conference games over the last two years (remember, Pac-10 teams played nine games per year). Arizona State should return largely intact — as in 20 of 22 starters potentially. Special teams might be the only issue Dennis Erickson will need to address in the offseason. He will have a stout front seven, a solid rushing attack, two quarterbacks with starting experience and positive momentum after two high-scoring wins to close the season over UCLA and Arizona. It might be crazy, but ASU could be the favorite in the South next fall.

That leaves the USC Trojans. They still have the most talented starting 22 in the league, but depth was a serious issue in 2010. Until the scholarship limitations are lifted, depth will continue to be a major hindrance. However, third-year quarterback Matt Barkley will have an embarrassment of riches to work with on offense next season, and one has to think that the elder Kiffin should be able to improve the Trojan defense. The Men of Troy have the potential to win this league but have failed to live up to their recruiting hype for a few years. Fans and media will give the new staff a pass in 2010, but probably not in 2011.

Utah and Colorado begin their Pac-12 tenures facing an uphill battle. The Buffs are in major rebuilding mode with a new staff stepping into place while Utah will play the toughest schedule of its existence. A full BCS conference slate will test the depth of the former "mid-major" program in year one. Arizona is the wildcard. Replacing much of that defensive line will hurt, but quarterbacks Nick Foles and Matt Scott offer plenty of leadership on offense. Mike Stoops always seem to win some games he shouldn't — and lose some he shouldn't, too.

North Division Predictions (key losses):

1. Oregon: WR Jeff Maehl, RB LaMichael James*, OL Bo Thran, OL Jordan Holmes, OL C.E. Kaiser, DT Brandon Bair, LB Casey Matthews, DE/LB Kenny Rowe, LB Spencer Paysinger, CB Talmadge Jackson

2. Stanford: QB Andrew Luck*, FB/LB Owen Marecic, WR Ryan Whalen, TE Konrad Reuland, OL Andy Phillips, OL Chase Beeler*, OL James McGillicuddy, DT Sione Fua, S Delano Howell*

3. Oregon State: OL Alex Linnenkohl, DT Stephen Paea, CB James Dockery

4. Washington: QB Jake Locker, OL Cody Habben, OL Ryan Tolar, LB Mason Foster, Jermaine Kearse*

5. Cal: RB Shane Vareen*, DT Derrick Hill, DE Cameron Jordan, LB Mike Mohamed

6. Washington State

South Division Predictions:

1. Arizona State: DT Saia Falahola CB Omar Bolden*, K Thomas Weber, P Trevor Hankins,

2. USC: RB Allen Bradford, FB Stanley Havili, WR Ronald Johnson, OL Kris O’Dowd, OL Tyron Smith*, OL Butch Lewis, LB Malcolm Smith, LB Michael Morgan, CB Shareece Wright, DT Jurrell Casey*

3. Arizona: RB Nic Grigsby, OL Colin Baxter, OL Adam Grant, Juron Criner*, DE Brooks Reed, DE Rick Elmore, S Joe Perkins

4. Utah: RB Matt Asiata, RB Eddie Wide, OL Zane Taylor, CB Brandon Burton*, RS Shaky Smithson

5. UCLA: LB Akeem Ayers*, S Rahim Moore*, K Kai Forbath, LS Christian Yount

6. Colorado: OL Nate Solder, CB Jimmy Smith, CB Jalil Brown

* Underclassmen who could decide to enter the NFL Draft.


The Pac-10's Best

Woods was one of the few bright spots for USC this fall.
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Athlon looks back at the year that was in the Pac-10.

Jim Thorpe Award (DB): Cliff Harris, Oregon
It’s tough to give an award to a guy who, at times, found himself on the bench. However, Harris led the league in passes defensed with 15 and interceptions with five (one of which he returned for a TD). He also returned four punts for scores. How many defensive backs have five total touchdowns this year? Harris finished with 25.5 total tackles. Much like linebacker, safeties Rahim Moore and T.J. McDonald both could have easily been selected here, but a guy pushing his team to the national title game gets the edge.

Lombardi Award (D-Lineman): Stephen Paea, Oregon State
See Bednarik Award above.

Adrian Peterson Award (freshman): Robert Woods, USC
The Athlon Sports High School Player of the Year as a senior now has another award for his mantle. The do-everything receiver led the Trojans in receptions (5.0) and yards (60.9) while also returning kicks admirably (38 for 971 yards and a TD). Woods finished sixth in the league in receiving yards (792) and third in receptions (65).

Lou Groza Award (K): Nate Whitaker, Stanford
No one made more field goals than the Cardinal kicker (17 of 19). James was the only Pac-10 player who scored more points this season than Whitaker.

Ray Guy Award (P): Jeff Locke, UCLA
This Bruin led the league in punting (45.8) — good for fifth nationally.

Desmond Howard Award (KR/PR): Cliff Harris, Oregon
How about 28 punt returns for 545 yards — which offers a league-leading 19.5 yards per return, good for second nationally — and four touchdowns? Four.

Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year (HC): Chip Kelly, Oregon
The Oregon Ducks finished the regular season unbeaten, with a conference championship and a berth in the national title game. His Ducks led the league in rushing, scoring, total offense, rush defense, pass efficiency defense, punt returns and tackles for loss. They scored more points (49.3 ppg) than any other team in the nation.

Broyles Award (Asst Coach): Chip Kelly, Oregon
I guess if this were to go to an actual assistant coach, Stanford’s associate head coach/assistant head coach of the offense/tight ends/offensive line coach Greg Roman might get the nod. But since Jim Harbaugh still has the biggest impact on that side of the ball, the edge goes to boy wonder Kelly. It’s his offense that was the best unit in the league this fall (no offense, Scott Frost).