Not too many programs can claim to be College Football Playoff contenders in Year Two of a head coach. Oregon is one of them, with Dan Lanning hitting the ground running with the Ducks. A mix of different things are lining up in Eugue, just ask Scoop Duck‘s Justin Hopkins.
“This is kind of the year for Oregon,” Hopkins said on the On3 Roundtable. “It lines up pretty well. You’ve got Bo Nix returning for another year off a career year. You do have the new OC (Will Stein via UTSA) but you brought in a ton of transfer pieces the last two years to kind of steady the ship. You’ve done really well in recruiting… I do think there is a playoff contender there.”
Lanning brought in a top-10 class with his first full recruiting cycle in 2023. Add in another stellar offseason in the NCAA transfer portal where Oregon brought in 15 players, 11 of which were from other Power Five programs.
Recruiting, personnel, and coaching all matter when attempting to make the CFP. But the schedule is a massive factor as well. Just ask Oregon a season ago, having to face off against Georgia in Atlanta before going through a grueling nine-game Pac-12 schedule.
Hopkins considers the 2023 schedule “relatively favorable” despite a few tough opponents. The toughest of which will take place at home and likely be the game of the year in the Pac-12.
“I think the schedule is relatively favorable,” Hopkins said. “You do have USC at home which is going to be an epic game in Auzten Stadium. You play Washington on the road, you play Utah on the road. Those are no gimmes at all.”
Depending on how early season goes for Oregon, Washington and Utah on the road might be conference and playoff deciders. In order for Lanning to lead his crew there, one game, in particular, stands out as the test to prove the Ducks are for real. A trip down to Lubbock to play a Texas Tech team earning a ton of preseason hype.
“We’re going to get a really good sense of this Oregon team early on,” Hopkins said. “They’re going to play Texas Tech the second week down in Lubbock, TX. I think that’s great for Oregon fans and college football fans in general to get a really good litmus test on where Oregon is at the second weekend of the season.
“Because that Texas Tech team is looking like a top-10, top-15 team right now. They’re going to be disciplined, they’re going to be great. It’s going to be a tough road game for Oregon.”
If Oregon is going to be one of the final four teams, they surely are going to earn the opportunity. Lanning is ready to get the ball rolling in the fall, ready to come knocking on the College Football Playoff’s door.