Top 25 teams and games —
No. 20 Oregon Ducks


Published: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 12:36 a.m.

TEAM NO. 20 OREGON

The buzz: Wonder if the Ducks have gotten over last season? They were a national championship contender and Dennis Dixon was a Heisman front-runner until Dixon tore his knee up and Oregon lost three straight. Still, there is optimism fueld by a 56-21 thrashing of South Florida in the Sun Bowl.

Difference-maker: With the offense in the tank last year at the end of the season, cornerback Jarius Byrd was the man making big plays. In an overtime loss to Oregon State he returned a fumble 33 yards for a score and in the bowl game he had two interceptions, four pass break-ups and a forced fumble.

The upside: The Ducks have a good coach in Mike Bellotti and should have a good defense this year. And it's the kind of defense that forces turnovers and scores points. Nick Reed is unstoppable at defensive end and Patrick Chung is a playmaker at the rover.

The downside: Little experience at quarterback and no Jonathan Stewart could mean that the defense will have to play lights out. Bellotti knows how to run the spread offense so the big question will be whether Nate Costa or Justin Roper can make the correct decisions at quarterback.

Schedule factor: Boise State in the fourth week will be a challenge for an inexperienced offense and the Ducks have to go on the road to face USC, Arizona State and Cal in a five-week stretch. Not good. But if Oregon can get by Boise, the Ducks could be 5-0 heading to Los Angeles.

GAME NO. 20 ALABAMA VS. CLEMSON

Where: Georgia Dome; Atlanta, Ga.

When: Aug. 30

Why it's sexy: It's the first weekend of the college football season and these are two teams with aspirations for greatness this season. Plus, there are few settings better than the Dome for a college game even if the Tide fans have gobbled up most of the tickets.

Preseason buzz: Nick Saban's second year has to be better than his first when Alabama collapsed at the end losing four straight including one to Louisiana-Monroe. Clemson thinks this might be the year it wins the ACC. Of course, the Tigers have been thinking that for awhile. It has been 17 years.

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