College Football Preview 2001
Message Board
Monday, August 13
QB Harrington keeps Ducks flying high

By Brad Edwards
Special to

Oregon Ducks
2000 record: 10-2 (7-1).
Coach: Mike Bellotti (7th year, 49-22).
Starters returning (8 offense, 4 defense).
Outlook: The schedule sets up perfectly for a shot at an unbeaten season, but it sounds crazy to look that far ahead. More realistically, the Ducks should be favored to win the Pac-10 but would likely miss the Rose Bowl with even one non-conference loss. On second thought, they might as well aim for the stars. Once again, the offense should be potent. Joey Harrington is a legitimate Heisman candidate, and he has plenty of talent out there with him. The Ducks can beat teams by ground or by air, which means they should never be too far out of a game. There are several holes to be filled on defense, however, and inexperience abounds in the front seven. A team with a strong running game might give Oregon fits -- even at Autzen Stadium. But if the defense gels by midseason, it could be a special year in Eugene.

Keep an eye on: CB Rashad Bauman. Most of the attention is focused on the Oregon offense, but the defense will have to step up big to help make this a magical season. Bauman is one of only four starters returning on that side, so he will be counted on for leadership and playmaking. He might spend most of the game outside of your TV picture, but what you don't see of him is what makes him so valuable. The coverage skills of Bauman and Steve Smith will allow a green front seven to take some chances.

Key game: Nov. 10 at UCLA. Oregon hasn't lost at home since October of '97, so assume the Ducks can hold their home field. Then look at the road games: Utah State, Arizona, Cal, Washington State and this game against UCLA. You never can tell, but the Bruins appear to be the most dangerous from that group. Now, read between the lines.

It's a good year if... The Ducks reach a BCS game. Last season, they shared the title with Washington and Oregon State, only to see them both head off to a major bowl game and win it. This time, it's Oregon's turn to get in on the action. Going undefeated through the Pac-10 is extremely difficult, so maybe national title dreams are a little overanxious, but the Ducks certainly have the talent and the schedule to lay sole claim to the conference crown this year.

Brad Edwards is a college football researcher at ESPN.

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