Top 25 Countdown

No. 16 Oregon

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Last Season: 10-3 (defeated Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl).

Returning Starters: 10 (5 offense, 5 defense).

Key Game: vs. California, Sept. 26

Why They're Worth Watching

The Ducks' quarterback carousel finally came to a halt last season when Jeremiah Masoli (who entered last fall as the team's fifth-string quarterback) proved he could remain healthy and effective. Masoli threw for 13 touchdowns and rushed for 10 more in 2008. The dual-threat junior returns to lead a dynamic attack that ranked seventh in the nation in both scoring offense and total offense last season. Masoli's favorite target may be versatile tight end Ed Dickson, who averaged 14.5 yards per catch last season and is on the Mackey Award watch list. Former offensive coordinator Chip Kelly is now the team's head coach, which means his spread-option style won't be going anywhere anytime soon.

Player to Watch

LeGarrette Blount, Sr., RB

Blount, a junior college transfer, set a single-season school record with 17 rushing touchdowns in 2008. Now that Jeremiah Johnson has graduated, look for Blount to build on the 1,002 yards he gained last year and motor the Ducks' rushing attack.

Why They're Vulnerable

Since Kelly arrived in Eugene as the offensive coordinator under Mike Bellotti in 2007, the Ducks' running game has been highly potent thanks to an offensive line built on raw power. But after losing three starting linemen from last season, the makeup of the front line this year will be based more on athleticism. Right tackle C.E. Kaiser and left guard Bo Thran are the two returning starters and both missed significant time during spring practice because of injuries. If the line struggles to jell or to adapt to its new approach, Oregon's offense could become more one-dimensional. The defensive line also will be untested, with senior Will Tukuafu the only returning starter.

-- Steve Yanda

© 2009 The Washington Post Company