Is Vernon Adams enough for Oregon Ducks to win Pac-12 North?


Tabbed the favorite from the North heading into 2015, the Oregon Ducks, likely lead by FCS transfer Vernon Adams, are looking to snag yet another Pac-12 North Division Title. Many think it’ll be a walk in the park for them, but they are in for a huge surprise.

Let us start from the top, looking at Oregon football for what it isnot what is has been or what we want it to be. In the midst of a QB battle, Oregon remains the clear favorite to win the Pac-12 North.

Related: 30 Greatest Mascots in College Football

People seemingly ignore this, however, and assume that it won’t be any sort of trouble for Mark Helfrich and his team. Many fans and media members neglect that Vernon Adams might not even be the starting quarterback for Oregon to open the season. In fact, Helfrich has said that, at this point, it is a two-man race between Jeff Lockie and Adams.

If Lockie has one thing going for him, it is that he has had three seasons, including two as the backup to Marcus Mariota, to grasp a complex system that Adams will have less than a month to master after enrolling late. Strike one for the Ducks is that they don’t even have a starter as the season is rapidly approaching.

More from Oregon Ducks

Strike two for the Ducks comes in a less tangible form. Oregon is young, very young. The Ducks are 79th in the country and 10th in the Pac-12 with only 12 starters returning. People have an easy time putting this red flag behind them, as they see the firepower the Ducks bring back, but don’t think for a second that having Royce Freeman means they return last years rushing attack.

Without the constant rushing threat that was Mariota, defenses can key on Freeman and stack the box and dare Lockie or Adams to throw. Neither Lockie nor Adams require as much defensive focus as Mariota. It isn’t just Freeman and the run game that are affected, however. The entire Oregon team will suffer after losing the best player in team history.

Four returning starting wideouts will be a safety net for whoever takes the first snap in the opening game, but the loss of three starting linemen will be huge — and we’ll count it as strike three.

Within their first four games, Oregon will face some of the best pass rushes in college football. With Michigan State (8th in the country last year in sacks) and Utah (1st in the country) in the first month, the line will be tested and the quarterback could be flustered. Oregon is in trouble. They also get matchups with Stanford and Arizona State, who ranked fifth and 13th, respectively.

All of this begs one question: Can Oregon still win the Pac-12 North?

Yes — they can, but Stanford is there to challenge them. The North is Stanford’s to lose. For them, if they can beat Oregon, handle their basic business, and hope that Oregon has no miracle of a season, they’ll find themselves playing Arizona State for the Pac-12 title.

Oregon has five losable games this season with Michigan State, Arizona State, and Stanford, and road games at Utah and USC. It is not unforeseeable, then, that they drop two, or maybe even three.

Stanford, however, has challenges from Oregon, USC, an overrated Arizona squad, and a UCLA team that has failed to beat them during the Jim Mora era. If they beat Oregon they’ll find themselves playing for the Pac-12 Championship Game.

The North will be no cakewalk for the Ducks or Cardinal, but regardless of who comes  out on top, they might not represent the Pac-12 as conference champions. That title will belong to the South this year.

Next: 50 Greatest College Football Rivalries of All-Time

More from Saturday Blitz