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Thirty years ago you would have never said that Oregon was the best program in the Pac-12. But here we are in 2021 and it seems that year after year we look at them first or pretty close to first when rating who will win the league. They are consistently in the hunt for conference supremacy and this year is no different. Coach Mario Cristobal has put together three consecutive Top-10 recruiting classes and the outlook is good in Eugene. They have an issue at QB (which is always a problem) and they will have to get that settled but their defense has improved to be as important to the Ducks as the offense always has been. They will have to negotiate a difficult schedule and win a couple of key conference games on the road and if they do they might be in the hunt for a Final Four playoff spot.
Offense: The QB situation is shaky but there are a couple of candidates available. Former Boston College transfer Anthony Brown took all of the first-team snaps and looks to be the opening game starter. There are other heralded prospect led by true freshman Ty Thompson. The entire offensive line returns intact and will block for RBs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye. There is an abundance of skill at wide receiver led by Johnny Johnson III and Jaylon Redd. The TE position is strong also and might be used more in the offense this year. The roster is deep and there are an abundance of talented underclassmen that are pushing the veterans.
Defense: Oregon returns potential No.1 NFL draft pick Kayvon Thibodeaux at defensive end to wreak havoc on opposing QBs in 2021. New coordinator Tim Deruyter was at Texas A&M when all-star Von Miller was dominating the nation so he knows how to handle players like Thibodeaux and how to get the most out of his abilities. Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Noah Sewell is a superstar in the making at linebacker and he will be joined by Isaac Slade-Matautia and 2020 5-star recruit Justin Flowe. The secondary returns three starters and has NFL talent. This is a deep and experienced bunch and might be the best defense in Oregon history.
9/4 Fresno State
9/11 at Ohio State
9/18 Stony Brook
This is the type of non-con schedule national contenders play. They open at home against a decent opponent in Fresno State that will test them but they should beat. They have a patsy in Stony Brook and in between they have a national attention-grabber in Columbus against the Buckeyes. A victory here and the Ducks will be automatically inserted in the Top-5. And, even a loss is ok as long as the game is close. If the Ducks can run the table in the conference, this game could help get them to the Final Four.
10/2 at Stanford
10/23 at UCLA
11/6 at Washington
11/13 Washington State
11/20 at Utah
11/27 Oregon State
The conference schedule has a plus because they dodge USC and Arizona State from the South division. However, the five home games are all relatively easy and the most difficult games are all on the road. The road schedule includes potential losses at Stanford, Washington, and Utah. They also have to make sure they don’t slip up at UCLA. Are they good enough to get through those 4 games without a loss? The home games are all against inferior teams and should be easy wins.
Summary: The Oregon defense gives them a chance to not only win the Pac-12 for the third consecutive year, but they have a legitimate shot at the Final 4. There is a question mark at QB and if that is solved this could be the Year of the Ducks. They can’t get blown out at Ohio State and heck they have a great chance to win that one. If they can get through those tough conference road games will be the key to how far they can go.
Predicted Finish: 1st Place in the Pac-12 North
Overall Record: 10-2
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