Oregon Suddenly a Pac-10 Favorite
But the Ducks as favorite, the team to beat. Yep, that's definitely new.
Oregon was picked to win the Pac-10 by the media in the preseason poll, which was unveiled at the Rose Bowl media day last Thursday. It is the first time in eight years that someone other than USC has been picked by the media to win the Pac-10. It was the first time that Oregon has been picked to win the Pac-10 in the preseason since 1961.
The Ducks were the ones to break USC's seven-year stranglehold on the conference title last season, reaching the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1995.
And they were picked to finish third.
So Oregon's second-year coach Chip Kelly is reluctant to put too much stock in this year's pick. After all, seven teams received at least one first-place vote. But the media's picked the correct team in nine of the last 10 polls, so there's got to be a little something to the fact that people think the Ducks and their 18 returning starters are pretty good.
"Preseason rankings don't mean anything to us," Kelly said. "The teams that win in this league are the teams that keep their playmakers healthy."
The Ducks have their share of those, all those returning starters on both sides of the ball, but it's the starter not returning that has garnered the most attention.
Jeremiah Masoli has moved on to Mississippi and left behind a question mark at quarterback for the Ducks with Nate Costa and Darron Thomas duking it out for the starting job. Neither have much experience, so if anybody is doubting Oregon -- despite the presence of talented running back LaMichael James and three returning starters at receiver in D.J. Davis, Jeff Maehl and Lavasier Tuinei -- quarterback would be where to look.
Costa, a fifth-year senior, won the job back in 2008 before a knee injury ended his season. He led Oregon to a win over UCLA in his only start last season. Thomas, a sophomore, redshirted last year after being forced into an appearance as a true freshman in 2008. Thomas completed 13 of 25 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes of a 37-32 loss to Boise State. His three touchdown passes and 210 yards were the most-ever by an Oregon freshman quarterback in his debut.
"Both are prepared and worked really hard for it," Kelly said. "All of our offensive line, receivers and running backs are back. They will have a supporting cast around them."