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2021 Oregon college football preview: Ducks developed into the class of Pac-12

The Pac-12 has not been a part of the College Football Playoff in a while, but Oregon will enter the 2021 season with the best shot at it.

Oregon Spring Game Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Oregon Ducks appear to be the class of the Pac-12 heading into the 2021 college football season. It is tough to take away much of anything from the conference last season, which did not get started till early November. Oregon finished with a 4-3 record and advanced to the conference title game just because the Washington Huskies were unable to play.

Oregon technically repeated as Pac-12 champs but fell short in the Fiesta Bowl. Following the season, starting quarterback Tyler Shough transferred for the Texas Tech Red Raiders, but this program is in fantastic shape. The Ducks will enter the fourth season under Mario Cristobal, who is developing into one of the best coaches in the sport.

2020 Season Review

  • 4-3, 3-2 Pac-12, Won Pac-12 Championship Game (31-24 vs. USC), Fiesta Bowl loss (34-17 vs. Iowa State)
  • Started 3-0, lost three of the final four games, dealt with several opt outs to key players

2021 Talent

2021 247Sports Composite Ranking: 7
ESPN Returning Production: 86% overall (9th): 87% offense (11th), 84% defense (19th)
Returning Talent Index: 2.55, 1st in Pac-12
Returning starters: 9/11 offense, 7/11 defense
* All rankings out of 130 FBS schools

Key Player

Quarterback: Anthony Brown (Senior)

Anthony Brown has plenty of experience in Power 5 football with three seasons playing QB for the Boston College Eagles before transferring to Oregon prior to last season with limited time on the field. Now, he’s the unquestioned starter, and he should be set up for success in the second year with Joe Moorhead running the offense with a full offseason to get ready.

Offense (non-QB): RB CJ Verdell (Junior)

The RPO-heavy offense was a success at the beginning of the 2020 season, and CJ Verdell should be ready for a bounce-back season this year. He averaged just 4.4 yards per carry, and his numbers dipped. Coming into last season, Verdell rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. He and Travis Dye bring plenty of talent and experience to the running back position.

Defense: DE Kayvon Thibodeaux (Sophomore)

If you follow the NFL mock draft world, you know all about Oregon’s defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. He is certainly among the most talented defensive players in all of college football, and Thibodeaux should hear his name called early in the 2022 NFL Draft. In 20 games played over the past two seasons, he has 23.5 tackles for loss with 12 sacks. He figures to find himself in opponent backfields often this season.

Team Stats Projections

2020 SP+ final: 17th overall: 17th offense, 24th defense, 77th special teams
2021 SP+ projection: 5th overall: 8th offense, 9th defense

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

To win national title: +4000
To win Pac-12: +260
Win total: 9 (Over -115, Under -105)

2020 Against The Spread: 3-4-0
2020 Point Total: Over 3-4-0

2021 Oregon Schedule

2021 Oregon Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Saturday, Sep. 4 Fresno State 2:00pm/Pac12N UO -22/61.5
Saturday, Sep. 11 at Ohio State 12:00pm/Fox UO +10
Saturday, Sep. 18 Stony Brook 7:30pm/Pac12N N/A
Saturday, Sep. 25 Arizona TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 2 at Stanford TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 9 OPEN TBA N/A
Friday, Oct. 15 California 10:30pm/ESPN N/A
Saturday, Oct. 23 at UCLA TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 30 Colorado TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 6 at Washington TBA UO -1.5
Saturday, Nov. 13 Washington State TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 20 at Utah TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 27 Oregon State TBA N/A