The 2020 college season has been arguably the weirdest in history, especially in regards to the Power 5 conferences. The Big 12, the SEC, and the ACC decided to play in the fall, albeit conference games only (ACC did allow one out-of-conference game).
The Big Ten and the PAC-12 decided to postpone their winter sports seasons to the spring, because of COVID-19 concerns. Recently, the Big Ten backed off of that, and decided to begin playing a 9-game season beginning in late October.
The PAC-12 will begin playing a 7-season on the first weekend of November, with the conference championship to be played on December 18th. What does this mean for the Ducks football team?
The decision came down on September 24th, and from then on, Oregon has been able to begin practicing. No doubt this will be a strange year on the field, but HC Mario Cristobal should have these guys ready to go. He had this to say the day after the news broke:
“It’s on. The intensity is cranked up; you could feel it in the Zoom team meeting when play was announced. The Ducks are getting ready to get after it.”
Which is good. Especially considering it doesn’t look like the best offensive lineman in the country, Penei Sewell won’t be there, and neither will DB Jevon Holland. Both opted out, and both are considered the top of their positions heading into the upcoming NFL Draft.
But that doesn’t mean this Oregon football team won’t be wreaking havoc in the conference. Sewell and Holland were huge parts of their success, but that offensive line is still one of the best in the country.
Redshirt Freshman Jonah Tauanu’u has been tasked to step into the LT position, and he’s been considered a clone for Sewell. Sophomore Steven Jones may also spend some time on that side, as either can play both ends. The rest of the line is returning, and we’ve already said their one of the best in the business.
CJ Verdell, last year’s leading rusher for Oregon is back, as is Travis Dye. This duo will run all over the PAC-12. On the wide receiver front, both receiving leaders are also back. Jaylen Redd and Johnny Johnson III will be part of the passing game that will be run by sophomore Tyler Shough.
Shough comes in just after the departure of Justin Herbert, who is at the moment, the starter in LA for the Chargers. Many involved with that Ducks football team say the two are very similar. There may be some rust to shake off, but that will be true for everyone. I wouldn’t expect much of a drop off from what they had a year ago.
Losing Holland will leave a hole, but Mychal Wright and DJ James can get the job done. Holland had 4 INTs last year, and that production will be needed from this secondary who is returning their safeties too. Brady Breeze and Nick Prickett combined for 3 INTs last year, so the defensive backfield should still be solid. Continuity is a key in football, and this Oregon defense has it.
Outside of Isaac Slade-Matautia, the linebackers will be new to the starting lineup. This might be an unexpected weakness, but Mase Funa, MJ Cunningham, and Dru Mathis all have game reps under their belt, and with a strong, veteran front line, shouldn’t be an issue.
Speaking of the front 3, Kayvon Thibodeaux is coming off a monster freshman year, collecting 9 sacks, with 14 total tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Seniors Jordan Scott and Austin Faoliu also had good 2019 seasons, combining for over 70 tackles. Faoliu has 2 sacks, and 3 tackles for loss.
Ducks 2020 Outlook
The Ducks finished 5th in the country last year, and even though they lost some pieces to the NFL, including their QB, don’t expect much of a change with the younger guys stepping up. Mario Cristobal has a history of instilling the next man up culture wherever he’s been, and these guys are poised for another championship season.
Other PAC-12 teams lost a lot more than the Ducks did to the NFL, but that doesn’t mean this season will be easy. It’s only conference games, no out-of-conference tune-ups, or small schools to help gain momentum and confidence. If they’re going to win, it’ll be against their own.
If the PAC-12 is going to have a representative in the College Football Championship, you can fully expect that team to be Oregon.