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Season recap: Oregon

OREGON DUCKS

Record: 11-2, 8-1 Pac-12

A third consecutive conference title has Oregon flying higher than it's ever been as a program, and the Ducks show no signs of slowing down. Of course, to get their proper respect they need to avoid going 0-3 in BCS bowl games under coach Chip Kelly when they face Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

The Ducks fell 40-27 in the much-hyped opener against LSU, with turnovers and penalties being as much a problem as an outstanding Tigers defense. After that loss, the Ducks cruised fairly easily to their next marquee showdown: at Stanford on Nov. 12. And when the Ducks whipped the Cardinal 53-30, they were back in the national title hunt. At least for a week, as USC ended the Ducks' 21-game home winning streak the next weekend, 38-35, when the Ducks missed a last-second field goal to force overtime.

Oregon bounced back to trounce rival Oregon State and then UCLA in the first Pac-12 championship game.

Offensive MVP: LaMichael James became the first back in conference history to rush for more than 1,500 yards three consecutive seasons, including 1,646 yards this year. He also scored 17 touchdowns and caught 17 passes for 210 yards and another touchdown.

Defensive MVP: Defensive end Dion Jordan earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors after leading the Ducks' defense with 13 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks. The junior also had 40 total tackles and a forced fumble.

Turning point: It's hard to choose just one. The sloppy third quarter against LSU was when the Ducks fell out of the early national-title picture. The Stanford game, however, seems like a bigger one. While that dominant victory only briefly put the Ducks back into the national hunt, it more importantly gave the Ducks a cushion in the North Division race. Even the loss to USC, which Stanford beat, didn't ruin the Ducks' drive to the conference crown.

What's next: A Rose Bowl the Ducks need to win and another offseason when Oregon will be the consensus pick to the win the Pac-12 the following year. Even without James, a junior who is almost certain to declare for the NFL draft, the offense has plenty of weapons coming back. There's also a solid core of talent back on defense. Further, there doesn't seem to be an elite team like Stanford in the North to challenge the Ducks. Of course, the Ducks still haven't learned their NCAA fate from the Willie Lyles investigation, though there seems to be optimism around the program that sanctions won't be severe.