Coming off a seven-win season that saw the Ducks get back to a bowl game after a 4-8 2016 season, Oregon is again expected to compete in the PAC-12 North and is a dark horse candidate to win the PAC-12 North in 2018. With all that being said, let’s get right into my game-by-game predictions:
Week 1: Vs. Bowling Green
The Ducks open up the 2018 season with a home tuneup against a group of six Bowling Green team that won only two games a year ago. With a healthy Justin Herbert at the helm, Oregon averaged a robust 52 points per game a year ago and should have no trouble finding the end zone early and often against a Falcons team that is woefully overmatched.
My Prediction: Oregon: 59, Bowling Green: 17
Week 2: Vs. Portland State
Oregon is home again for week two and should have no trouble against Portland State in Autzen. Since 2008, the Ducks are 16-2 in games against non-Power 5 teams with the only two losses coming to a pair of very good Boise State teams.
Most recently, Oregon crushed the Vikings 69-0 in 2010 en route to a 12-1 season. Expect more of the same, especially with Ducks looking to maintain momentum at home and start the new season 2-0.
My Prediction: Oregon: 62, Portland State: 10
Week 3: Vs. San Jose State
With three home games, and none against Power-5 teams, the Ducks have the easiest non-conference schedule according to ESPN, and the Spartans should offer little resistance.
San Jose State won just two games a year ago, and ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Oregon a 98% chance of winning the game. In Mario Cristobal’s first season, the Ducks should cruise through the non-conference portion of the schedule without a hitch.
My Prediction: Oregon: 55, San Jose State: 13
Week 4: Vs. Stanford
The Cardinal is the Ducks first real test of 2018. Stanford’s Bryce Love is a bonafide Heisman candidate, and while the Cardinal are a sound football team, Stanford has regressed from the Andrew Luck/Kevin Hogan days.
Oregon has a tough defense that improved big time last year and will only continue to get better. The Ducks will stuff the box to take the game out of Love’s hands and force K.J. Costello to beat them through the air.
This is a game with major PAC-12 North implications and could go either way. The Ducks defense should be able to limit Love and generate some takeaways, and the offense should again find success against a Cardinal defense that has given up 30 points per game over the last three games, so I’ll give the nod to Oregon at home.
My Prediction: Oregon: 33, Stanford: 24
Week 5: At California
Oregon returns to the scene of a double-overtime loss two years ago and should have no problem finding motivation against a Golden Bears team that missed bowl season last year. The Ducks have a real chance to start the 2018 season 5-0 with a two-game lead over Stanford in the North.
There is always the potential for a letdown following a win over a top-15 Stanford team, but Justin Herbert brings experience and a veteran presence to the most important position on the field. Herbert will have the Ducks in good shape and could begin to ramp up the Heisman conversation with a pair of eye-opening games to begin the PAC-12 slate 2-0.
My Prediction: Oregon: 44, California: 24
Week 7: Vs. Washington
I am very high on the Oregon Ducks, but they are still a year off from making serious noise as a national contender whereas Washington comes into Eugene a dynasty. The Huskies won the PAC-12 North two years ago, 10 games a year ago, and played in the College Football Playoff in 2016, and have beaten Oregon by an average of 42 points per game over the last two years.
The rivalry between the Ducks and Huskies runs deep, so Oregon should keep it a competitive game throughout the first half. However, the Huskies have won the last two matchups against the Ducks, and the offensive backfield of Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin should provide more than enough firepower to pull away from a talented, albeit young, Oregon team in the second half.
My Prediction: Oregon: 27, Washington: 40
Week 8: At Washington State
The Ducks hit the road for the first real road test of 2018 to take on a Washington State team that won nine games a year ago and beat Oregon by 23 points. Last year, without Justin Herbert, teams were able to load the box against Royce Freeman and company, but this year the passing game should be revitalized.
Herbert is back and healthy, and Wake Forest transfer Tabari Hines should take the pressure off of Tony Brooks-James in the backfield. The Cougars are a middling 3-3 over their last six games while averaging a pedestrian 25.5 points per game. It’s not ideal facing a Ducks team that should have no problem putting up 35ish points against a team that has given up 36 points per game across the last three games.
My Prediction: Oregon: 37, Washington State: 23
Week 9: At Arizona
Oregon has split the last four games against Arizona, winning two by an average of 24 points. On the other end, the Wildcats took down a pair of top-5 Duck teams in 2013 and 2014.
The Ducks travel to the desert, where they will face a highly motivated Arizona team and first-coach Kevin Sumlin. The Wildcats also have a Heisman candidate in Khalil Tate, who eclipsed the 1,400-yard mark in the air and on the ground. Tate should give the Ducks a tall order defensively.
Arizona has defensive issues after giving up over 35 points per game a year ago. There will be offense to go around in Tucson, but Oregon is still very young and will fall in overtime.
My Prediction: Oregon: 48, Arizona: 51 (OT)
Week 10: Vs. UCLA
One of the more interesting games in the PAC-12 of the year, Chip Kelly returns to Eugene where he guided the Ducks to four BCS bowl games, including a pair of Rose Bowls and the National Championship game in 2011. Kelly hasn’t coached the Ducks in six years, so while any bad blood has cooled, Oregon should still be mathematically alive for the PAC-12 North crown, and come out firing at home.
The Bruins were a bowl team last year, and should only improve with Kelly at the helm, although he will have to break in a new quarterback after Josh Rosen’s departure to the NFL.
This should be a close game, with big plays on both sides. However, UCLA is much like Oregon a year ago – a good team, but young, learning a new set of playbooks, and prone to mistakes in execution on both sides of the ball. The Ducks should find a way to take care business in Eugene and avoid losing two straight.
My Prediction: Oregon: 45, UCLA: 30
Week 11: At Utah
The Utes have regressed in each of the last two seasons following a 10-win campaign in 2015 and coincidentally have dropped the last two games against the Ducks. Most recently a 21-point loss last season in Eugene. Two years, ago, Oregon squeaked by the Utes in Rice-Eccles stadium by two points, so get ready for a good game.
Utah is a scrappy, technically sound football team that brings back 2,400-yard passer Tyler Huntley, top running back Zach Moss, and is good enough defensively to force teams out of their comfort zone. ESPN’s Football Power Index has this game as a 50/50 toss-up, so I’ll take the Utes at home if they win the turnover battle.
My Prediction: Oregon: 33, Utah: 35
Week 12: Vs. Arizona State
Oregon is 10-1 against Arizona State since 2005, surprisingly with the only loss in that span coming last year with Justin Herbert behind center. This year it should be different, with the Sun Devils making the trip up and facing an Oregon team that will be motivated at home following a loss to Utah.
The Sun Devils are the third team Oregon will play with a new head coach, and while Manny Wilkins is one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the conference, the Sun Devils have depth issues on the defensive side that the Oregon offense will expose time and time again.
The Arizona State offense will put up points, but not enough to carry a defense that allowed nearly 33 points per game a year ago. Oregon wins cleanly and reaches the eight-win plateau in the process.
My Prediction: Oregon: 52, Arizona State: 31
Week 13 At Oregon State
The Ducks travel to Corvallis to take on what will most likely be the last place Beaver team in the annual Civil War. It is said that the game is called the Civil War because there is nothing civil about it, and over the last 10 years Oregon has made it so, going 9-1 and averaging over 48 points per game.
Last year, the Ducks easily dispatched Oregon State 69-10. This game should be more competitive with each team motivated to impress a new head coach in a big rivalry game, but Oregon has too much talent and is better at almost (if not) every position on paper.
Starting with a Heisman-worthy quarterback and a running back that averaged almost 5.5 yards per carry. This game might be close… for a few series. The Ducks pull away and win with ease.
My Prediction: Oregon: 59, Oregon State: 20
Oregon wraps up the 2018 season having improved from a seven-win team a year ago to a nine-win team this year. The Ducks finish second tied in the PAC-12 North with Stanford but have a head-to-head win that gives Oregon the advantage.
Therefore, Oregon is selected to play in the Holiday Bowl, (with a better record than the second-place team in the South) with the conference champion headed to the playoff, and the runner-up on the way to the Alamo Bowl. Oregon’s bowl matchup is Michigan, picked to finish second in the Big 10 East by sportingnews.com.
Alamo Bowl: Neutral site vs. Michigan
Oregon has the talent on both sides of the ball to make things interesting against Michigan early, and Justin Herbert will throw a pair of touchdowns in the first half. However, Michigan was a top-10 defense a year ago, giving up 18.8 points per game.
While that number is up from two years ago and has climbed over the past three games, the Wolverines are in a different tier than the Ducks, who come in relying on underclassmen on both sides of the ball. Michigan should be able to make the second half adjustments needed to slow Oregon’s offense on the ground and the air.
While the Ducks defense can be expected to show up, the Wolverines are a developed powerhouse that has won 10 games in each of Jim Harbaugh’s first two seasons, whereas the Ducks are following a seven-win season. Eventually, it will show, and Michigan will pull away.
My Prediction: Oregon: 27, Michigan: 38