CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 7 Oregon

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2011 record: 12-2 overall, 8-1 in Pac-12 (1st in North)

2011 postseason: Pac-12 title game (49-31 win over UCLA); Rose Bowl (45-38 win over Wisconsin)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 4/No. 4

Head coach: Chip Kelly (34-6 in three seasons at Oregon)

Offensive coordinator: Mark Helfrich (fourth season at Oregon, fourth as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 5th rushing offense (299.2 ypg); 68th passing offense (223.6 ppg); 4th total offense (522.8 ypg); 3rd scoring offense (46.1 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: five

Defensive coordinator: Nick Aliotti (13th season at Oregon, 13th as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 54th rushing defense (142.8 ypg); 88th passing defense (247.3 ypg); 67th total defense (390.1 ypg); 52nd scoring defense (24.6 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: six

Location: Eugene, Ore.

Stadium: Autzen Stadium (54,000; FieldTurf)

Last league title: 2011

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
The defense returns six starters from a unit that’s one of the speediest and most athletic in the country, an imperative in the wide-open Pac-12.  The schedule is full of cupcake goodness, from three non-conference pastries to home Pac-12 games against Arizona, Washington and Stanford.  Add in plenty of talent and the experience gleaned from three straight conference titles, and the Ducks are solidly in the mix for a fourth in a row.  Well, except for…

The Bad
Losing its starting quarterback  (Darron Thomas, who inexplicably gave up his final season of eligibility for the NFL), leading rusher (LaMichael James, who led the country the past two seasons in rushing yards per game) and leading receiver (Lavasier Tuinei) will leave a mark on the Ducks offensively.  While the schedule sets up nicely, the toughest test of the season will come on the road versus USC.

The Unknown
Hands down the biggest unknown for the Ducks in 2012 will be who will replace Thomas under center — and on the edges — and how effective the replacement will be.  While Thomas’ decision-making ability was questioned this offseason — he ended up an undrafted free agent — there was no questioning his abilities in running Kelly’s offense.  The task of replacing such a talent will come down to sophomore Bryan Bennett and redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota, with the latter exiting spring as the decided favorite to win the job heading into summer camp.  Regardless of which player ultimately emerges, how well they can manage to replace Thomas’ production will go a long way in determining whether the Ducks will have a spot on both the conference and national stage

Make-or-break game: at USC, Nov. 3
As noted in the USC preview, both of these teams should enter this game with spotless 8-0 records and rankings that would likely be a matchup of Top 5 squads.  As noted up above, however, the Ducks will have to travel to Los Angeles this year.  Oregon came away from its last trip to the Coliseum with a win, although this year’s Trojans are a much different team than the 2010 edition.  The only certainty in this game is that the winner will emerge as one of the front-runners for a spot in the BcS title game with three-quarters of the regular season in the books.

Heisman hopeful: running back Kenjon Barner
Playing in the immense shadow cast by one of the top running backs (LaMichael James) in the country over the past couple of years, Barner has still managed to rush for nearly 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns.  With James off to the NFL, Barner will be expected to pick up a sizable chunk of the production lost.  The bad news for Barner’s Heisman chances?  Electrifying true sophomore DeAnthony Thomas is expected to play a bigger role in the offense than he did as a freshman last year, which could dampen any stiff-armed hopes Barner may be entertaining entering the season.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Reports: Miami hiring Lance Guidry from Tulane as DC

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
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Miami is hiring Lance Guidry, who was defensive coordinator at Marshall last season and recently accepted the same position at Tulane, to lead its defense, two people with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because a deal was still being finalized between Guidry and Miami.

The 51-year-old Louisiana native was hired way from Marshall by Tulane just last month. Now he’ll replace Kevin Steele on Mario Cristobal‘s staff at Miami. Steele is reportedly on his way to Alabama to become Nick Saban‘s defensive coordinator after holding that position for one season with the Hurricanes.

Alabama has yet to make the hiring of Steele and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees official. Rees had been assistant at Notre Dame.

Tulane announced the hiring of Guidry on Jan. 23 to replace Chris Hampton, who left the New Orleans-based school to join Oregon’s staff as an assistant coach.

Guidry’s defenses at Marshall ranked third in the nation in yards per play this season (4.56) and 26th nationally in 2021 (5.14 ypp).

Iowa-Northwestern set for Wrigley Field in November

Nikos Frazier/Journal & Courier/USA TODAY NETWORK
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CHICAGO — Wrigley Field will host a college football game for the third time since 2010 when Iowa plays Northwestern next season.

Northwestern and the Chicago Cubs announced that the Wildcats’ home game will be played Nov. 4.

Northwestern played Illinois at Wrigley in 2010 in the MLB ballpark’s first college football game since 1938, and the Wildcats hosted Purdue there in 2021.

Wrigley Field has a long history of hosting football games. The Chicago Bears played there from 1921 to 1970 before moving to Soldier Field. The old Chicago Cardinals also played at Wrigley, as well as DePaul until its program folded in 1939.

Northwestern had been scheduled to play Wisconsin at Wrigley in 2020, but the game was moved to Ryan Field in Evanston because of the COVID-19 pandemic.