No. 11 Oregon

Oregon speedster Devon Allen finished fifth in the 110-meter hurdles at the Rio Olympics, a disappointment, for sure.

But the bigger shock this summer was Oregon football only taking “bronze” in the Pac 12 media poll. And that was just in the conference’s North Division.

Skeptical scribes awarded preseason gold to Stanford, which lost to Oregon last year in Palo Alto, and handed silver to Washington, which has lost 12 straight to its lower-land rivals.

What in the name of Baron Pierre de Coubertin is going on here?

Did Phil Knight declare for bankruptcy? Did someone pull the plug on Oregon’s talent pool, which was greener than the diving pool in Rio?[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Absolutely not: before you deep six the Ducks consider: they are six deep at receiver and two deep at tailback.

Oregon's depth chart looks a lot like the Olympic credo Allen aspired to in Rio: Citius, Altius, Fortius.

The defense is getting better all the time with Brady Hoke taking over as coordinator. Because, god help us, to borrow from a Beatles' song, it couldn't get much worse.

We’re guessing the media got spooked after Oregon blew a 31-0 lead in last year’s Alamo Bowl, a direct result of quarterback Vernon Adams getting injured.

And Adams has since moved on, so what’s there to live for?

A lot, actually. Oregon doesn’t need gaudy rankings to win the Pac 12 this year. A good year under Hoke, the former Michigan coach, will mean finishing 80th in NCAA total defense, a huge step up from 117.

And fifth-year transfer quarterback Dakota Prukop, from Montana State, needs only to flirt with a 40th ranking in total passing for Oregon to be as menacing as ever.

Prukop is not Adams, a jitterbug who left opposing defenders tackling air--remember USC in the USC game? But Adams was hummingbird fragile and couldn’t stay healthy enough to take pressure off the Ducks’ break-then-move-to-Bend defense.

Prukop will be a duller, stronger, steadier hand. He knows the offense and is a capable passer and runner who needs only to deftly distribute the ball to a cavalcade of stars, starting with tailback Royce Freeman.

There is so much talent on offense Allen, the Olympic star, will have to fight for playing time.

Any other big time program returning this much talent would be granted preseason favors. No one cares that Urban Meyer lost 17 starters at Ohio State, or that Nick Saban has to replace his national championship quarterback.

The lack of respect for Oregon is an indictment of coach Mark Helfrich, entering his fourth year after replacing Chip Kelly. Helfrich is a nice guy, and a smart guy, but he has so far lacked the cold-blooded gravitas Kelly brought to Eugene. Helfrich is more a cross between Mike Bellotti and "Happy Days" Ronny Howard.

The biggest mismatch of the Ohio State-Oregon title game two years ago was at head coach. Urban Meyer had Helfrich beat running out of the tunnel.

In Sunday's preseason Associated Press, Oregon was ranked No. 24, one spot behind Baylor. Baylor? A team in the throes of a scandal that has seen coaches, players and administrators fleeing campus?

But Baylor is in better preseason shape than Oregon? Wow.

Helfrich has to prove he is big enough for this job. The Ducks have worked a decade to earn the right to be the team to beat in the Pac 12 this year, but they’re not? The press told Helfrich at Media Day they don’t think he can beat Stanford or Washington, even though BOTH games are in Eugene.

See, Devon Allen isn’t the only Oregon guy whose path is filled with hurdles.

Rankman's countdown so far:No. 16 Boise State, No. 15 Washington,No. 14USC, No. 13UCLA, No. 12Stanford [/membership]

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