Expectations are for a lot of "yes" men in Eugene

Expectations are low for the Oregon football team.  After an offseason marred by numerous appearances on the police blotter, and a quarterback controversy with no real favorite, this team will be hard pressed to re-create last season’s success.

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Expectations are high for the reigning Pac-10 champs.  The 11th ranked team in the country returns 17 starters, including star running back LaMichael James, who set the conference rushing record for freshman with 1,546 yards last season.

Neither of these is wrong.  In fact, both of these statements are completely true.  This is the paradoxical state of Oregon Ducks football going into the 2010 season.  Yes, there are questions at quarterback.  But Nate Costa and Darron Thomas have the set of skills necessary to succeed within Chip Kelly’s system.  Even though they don’t have much “experience,” they’ve both been there long enough that they’ll know what they need to do. Choosing Costa will give you the more “experienced” (older) player, and starting Thomas will get early reps for the “future” of the program. 

Yes, they’ve had some issues with the law this past offseason.  But many of those players are gone.  Including star quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.  Not everyone on the team ran into trouble.  Senior tackle Bo Thran started a football camp run by Ducks players, among others, to benefit the victims of a horrible violent episode in Gresham.  At worst, they’ve lost a potential Heisman trophy candidate in Masoli.  At best, they’ve begun to clean up the program, and Chip Kelly shows he’ll treat everybody equally.  These players are growing and maturing as a team, and the 17 returning starters have hopefully learned from their previous transgressions.  Or at least James has.

Speaking of James, his 1,546 yards last year are nothing to brush off.  But it’s safe to assume Pac-10 defenses will prepare accordingly.  Once the situation at quarterback gets itself figured, then they’ll know how much of the load James will have to bear.  Whether it’s Costa or Thomas, the load will be sizable either way, just slightly less sizable one way.  

Finally, what can be made of the USA today ranking?  Nothing anybody didn’t know already:  The Ducks are probably the best team in a down year for the Pac-10.  The only other Pac-10 team to make the top 25 was Oregon State at 22, but on the whole it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see any of these teams beat each in conference.  Except for maybe Washington State.  Where they’ll be when conference play starts at the end of September will hinge greatly on how well they pass the test against a feisty Volunteer team, at Tennessee on September 11th.  For now, 11th best in the country with all of these questions looming in the air sounds about right.

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