Can Oregon win without Kelly?

Oregon has very few obvious holes on its 2013 roster (though the Pac-12 blog believes questions at linebacker are fairly substantial).

The biggest issue is whether things will continue in their elite trajectory after the departure of coach Chip Kelly for the Philadelphia Eagles. Folks can believe that Mark Helfrich can step in seamlessly, but when the Ducks face Nicholls State on Aug. 31, it will be the first anyone has seen of Helfrich as a head coach.

So you don't really know, because you can't know.

Still, the Ducks clearly are a national-title contender. At least, that's the conclusion of ESPN analyst Brock Huard.

(Yes, Huard is a former Huskies quarterback. At some point can we acknowledge that his sporting background doesn't color his analysis, which I typically find insightful?)

Oregon is one of 10 teams ESPN.com's Insider's college football experts have examined based on their having the best odds to win the BCS title this season, according to Brian Fremeau's post-spring projectionsInsider.

Huard gives three pros and three cons for the Oregon caseInsider. You have to be an Insider to get the details, but here are his judgements:

Three reasons why Oregon can win the national title:

  1. Their quarterback -- and offense as a whole -- will again be dynamic.

  2. The pieces are in place for new coach Mark Helfrich to succeed right away.

  3. The schedule sets up nicely.

And the reasons why not:

  1. There are some concerns at the linebacker spot.

  2. The depth isn't as strong as it usually is.

  3. The kicking game could be an issue.

And Huard's bottom line?

Two cold November nights have undone Oregon's ultimate goal the past two seasons. This campaign, a Nov. 7 matchup at Stanford could very well have the conference division title and much more on the line. The conference's most effective, established system paired with the conference's best quarterback should prove to be the difference this November.

So you'd have to say that Huard is onboard with the Ducks playing the final game of the season.