The Oregon Ducks enter 2013 without Chip Kelly, the coach who built them from a competitive program into one of the best programs in the country. Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich has taken the controls in Eugene, and confidence is high that things will carry on without much of a disturbance. With Marcus Mariota and De'Anthony Thomas back for the Ducks, they should be as explosive as ever, but can they make it all the way to the national championship? Let's take a look at their schedule and see how it breaks down.
2013 Oregon schedule
Projections from Football Outsiders' 2013 college football almanac.
Barring something unforeseen, the Ducks should be heavy favorites in every game this year but one. That game is their Nov. 7 visit to Stanford. The winner of that game will almost certainly win the Pac-12 North and be heavy favorites to win the conference title game. It's dangerous to dismiss the 11 other games out of hand, but considering Oregon's track record, returning talent, and no USC on the schedule, I like their chances.
If the rest of the seasons boils down to Oregon avoiding upsets, which games are the most likely stumbling blocks outside of Stanford? Their road schedule is not particularly difficult, but their visit to Arizona could be tricky if the Ducks are looking ahead to the Civil War against Oregon State the next weekend. The Ducks will enjoy a significant talent advantage over the Wildcats and Beavers, but neither will be pushovers. Another game to watch is UCLA's visit to Autzen in late October.
Despite losing Chip Kelly to the NFL, Oregon's goal for 2013 hasn't changed: Win the BCS National Championship. The Ducks have a manageable road to get there, but they won't be able to sleepwalk their way to Pasadena. They haven't shown a history of that, though, so there's no reason to believe they will start this year.