College football fans, brace yourselves, the preseason polls are beginning to flourish.
Still three months and three days away from the Oregon Ducks kicking off their season against Nicholls State at Autzen Stadium, the Ducks and new head coach Mark Helfrich have been picked apart by many analysts in an attempt to give them a number before the season even starts.
The latest ranking, and one that has received a bit of flak, is Matt Hayes’ Preseason Top 25 for Sporting News that places the Ducks in the No. 8 position.
Said Hayes of the Ducks:
[gn_quote style=”1″]”We don’t really know what Mark Helfrich will be like in his first season making every call that matters. We do know, however, that the Ducks have plenty of talent on their roster. That alone should put Oregon in a position to win every time it steps on the field.”[/gn_quote]
Still a great ranking heading into the season, some may have issue with a team returning most of its offense and key defensive players coming off a 12-1 record and No. 2 finish last year. That being said, there are some questions Oregon will have to answer if they want to prove themselves better than their No. 8 ranking by Hayes.
Will Mark Helfrich forward the success of Mike Bellotti and Chip Kelly? How much will the losses of Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso, and Michael Clay hurt the Ducks on defense? Will Byron Marshall be the next great back at Oregon?
Though those are just a few questions that will be answered once the season begins, it’s evident that the Ducks may have some potential weaknesses. However, when compared to other preseason polls, Oregon is a few spots lower than other polls. The Ducks are ranked third on Mark Schlabach’s poll on ESPN, third on Phil Steele’s Top 25, fifth on CBSsports.com’s Top 25, and sixth on Sports Illustrated’s Top 25.
Now when you’re in the top-10 rankings in the nation and in a power conference, you’re an elite program. Hayes’ rankings, however, place Oregon right on the edge of elite and “very good”. But more than the ranking, it’s the teams he has ahead of the Ducks that are a little baffling.
While Alabama is undoubtedly the top team to contend with in 2013 and coming off their second-straight BCS National Championship, the positioning of Stanford at No. 2, Florida at No. 4, and Oklahoma State at No. 6. The Cardinal should be an elite squad this year, but No. 2 in the nation? A ranking like that is usually reserved for teams that are loaded with much of the same talent they had in the previous year. And while returning quarterback Kevin Hogan will be primed for yet another great year, the losses of Stepfan Taylor, Drew Terrell, Sam Schwartzstein, Levine Toilolo, Zach Ertz, and Chase Thomas really hurts Stanford. They should still have a great offensive line and defensive front, but there are more than a few questions to be asked about this Cardinal squad.
Will Muschamp and Joker Phillips will apparently do anything to get recruits to become Florida Gators, and that is absolutely hilarious. But that does not really merit a position at No. 4 when they are coming off a loss to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl and still have to prove that their offense isn’t bound for yet another horrendous season in 2013. Florida went 11-2 last year and had impressive wins over LSU, South Carolina, and Florida State. However, a 9-17 loss to Georgia derailed their chances of making an appearance in the BCS National Championship.
Boasting a top defense, the Gators did struggle to create things on offense, narrowly escaping with wins against the likes of Missouri (14-7) and Louisiana Lafayette (27-20). The latter of the two required last-minute heroics to save them from being the laughing stock of college football. If you’re a top-5 program, you take care of teams like Missouri and Louisiana Lafayette and have a well put together team, not just an outstanding defense.
The final team I have an issue with that is ranked ahead of the Ducks is the Oklahoma State Cowboys. According to Hayes, this program will go from 8-5 overall to being the No. 6 team in the nation. What?
There can be many arguments for other teams ahead of Oregon, but this one truly baffles me. Mike Gundy is a good coach, but there are way too many questions about this team and their performance from last season. Factor in the fact that they are still trying to figure out their starting quarterback, and Oklahoma State should be in the 15-20 range, at best.
But then again, polls at this time of the year are really a waste of time. Coaches still need to draw their plans, foundations have to be built, and players still have to build their bodies and their minds as they prepare for the grueling season ahead. We’ll look at Hayes’ poll in amusement and just remember that his credibility was waived on slide one, where he said Alabama was the most talented team in the country in 2010, the year they went 10-3 while Auburn and Oregon went undefeated to reach the BCS National Championship.
Maybe Hayes was just trying to entertain himself?