Oregon football predictions: ESPN projects ceiling, floor for Ducks in 2023
The ceiling is quite high for Oregon in Year 2 under coach Dan Lanning.
That’s according to ESPN’s Bill Connelly, who went through the outlet’s “way-too-early” top 25 on Wednesday to set what he believes to be the floor and the ceiling for each team in the early 2023 ranking. Best-case scenario, as Connelly sees it, is the Ducks go 11-1. That would almost assuredly lead to a spot in the College Football Playoff.
The creator of SP+ also gives the Ducks a 23% chance of reaching that 11-1 mark.
The worst-case scenario for Oregon in 2023, according to Connelly, is an 8-4 campaign.
What’s the biggest variable that could swing Oregon’s season one way or the other? Connelly writes it’s the offensive line:
Bo Nix was one of the stories of 2022, throwing for nearly 3,600 yards and 30 touchdowns after his transfer from Auburn. With most of his skill corps returning, and with an iffy defense returning enough experience to project improvement, there’s a lot to like about the Ducks as a contender in a suddenly loaded Pac-12. But Nix will be working with a new offensive coordinator (Will Stein, formerly of UTSA), and he’ll be protected by an offensive line replacing four starters. If it holds up, Oregon is a top-10 team. But what if it doesn’t?
The big guys up front had as much to do with the Ducks’ 10-win season in 2022 as anything else. Oregon ranked top-10 nationally in line yards per carry, opportunity rate, stuff rate, and sack rate (all defined here).
No one allowed fewer sacks than Oregon did, which yielded only five in 13 games. In fact, Oregon became the first non-service academy team since 2015 to allow five or fewer sacks in a single season.
The group has to replace some incredibly experienced pieces. Alex Forsyth, T.J. Bass, Ryan Walk, and Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu have all moved on from the program. The Ducks have talent returning on the line, but this will be a different-looking group in 2023.