1. The schedule is very favorable
While Stanford faces Notre Dame, Oregon, Arizona State UCLA and Washington on the road, and also has to host USC, the Ducks miss the Trojans and ASU, two of the strongest teams in the South Division (due to the PAC-12 schedule rotation). The Ducks get Washington, Stanford and Michigan State in Autzen.
Devon is devine: Devon Allen grabbed a couple of touchdown passes in the Spring Game, and it won’t be his last end zone celebration as a Duck. His world-class speed in the hurdles makes him an instant deep threat for the Ducks (Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports).
The biggest challenges of the season, Michigan State, UCLA and Stanford, are nicely spaced out, once each in September, October and November. The Ducks get a long week before playing Arizona on a Thursday night, a long week before traveling to UCLA October 11th. They have a bye in November 15th before the dreaded 11th game of the year, this season at home against Colorado. They close with Utah, Colorado and Oregon State.
There’s enough strength of schedule to keep them in the national playoff picture and three critical breaks to aid in recovery. Two of the opening games, South Dakota and Wyoming, should give coaches valuable time to acclimate and evaluate younger players.
2. Some key young players are progressing very well in camp
Running back Royce Freeman and linebacker Jimmie Swain have both been singled out as quick learners. Offensive coach Scott Frost told Ryan Thorburn of the Register-Guard, ”
All the years I’ve been here watching the guys who didn’t know what they were doing (as freshmen) and then you lose them and think, ‘OK, we can’t manage without Jeff Maehl or LaMichael James’ or whoever it is,” offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. “And we always seem to find someone else. I think we’ve recruited pretty well, so we’ll just see how long it takes these young ones to catch up.”
In another Thorburn story Keanon Lowe and Marcus Mariota praised the young wide receivers. Dwayne Stanford stands out at 6-5, 201, adding a valuable dimension with his size. Lowe noted the big man leaped over a defender to make a completion yesterday. Mariota added, “Dwayne, Chance Allen, even Darren Carrington, those guys all have bigger frames and it gives us an opportunity as a quarterback unit to hopefully find a bigger target,” Mariota said after Thursday’s practice. “All those guys are explosive as well. They’re all really good.”
Got deep threats? Charles Nelson, Devon Allen and Thomas Tyner are all really, really fast, and Carrington, Jalen Brown, B.J. Kelley, and Lowe have good speed.
In spite of the media fear-mongering the Oregon wide receivers will be excellent this season. It could be the most explosive Quack Attack ever, and that’s saying something.
3. The 2014 team has excellent chemistry
There is great leadership and maturity, a consistent message. These guys like and trust each other, they believe in each other. They are highly likely to hang together over the long grind of the season and stay focused day-to-day and week-to-week. Mariota, Ifo, Tony Washington, Derrick Malone and the three veteran offensive lineman, Fisher, Johnstone and Grasu, have huge respect in the locker room and on the practice field. They’ll set the tone, and there’s not likely to be anyone going rogue this year with a blase comment.
This team will prepare the same way for every opponent. They’re not likely to overlook anyone or fail to prepare properly. That lesson was driven home last year and in the off season.