Oregon Debuts at No. 17 in ESPN Football Power Index

ESPN projects another strong season for the defending Pac-12 champions.
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ESPN released its initial football power index Tuesday. With programs in the midst of spring football across the country, conversations around the NFL Draft and the 2021 college football season are ramping up.

Note from ESPN on the FPI: "FPI is a predictive rating system designed to measure team strength and project performance going forward. The ultimate goal of FPI is not to rank teams 1 through 128; rather, it is to correctly predict games and season outcomes." 

Oregon landed at 17, and is the only Pac-12 team ranked inside the top 25. USC just missed the cut at 26.

Oregon's biggest non-conference opponent, Ohio State, was ranked fifth, in a bit of a head scratcher behind Iowa State at 4. 

 Full FPI Rankings

1. Alabama

2. Oklahoma

3. Clemson

4. Iowa State

5. Ohio State

6. Texas A&M

7. Georgia

8. Mississippi State

9. Oklahoma State

10. Penn State

11. Notre Dame

12. Texas 

13. North Carolina

14. Florida

15. Wisconsin

16. Auburn

17. Oregon

18. LSU

19. TCU

20. Miami

21. Texas Tech

22. Ole Miss

23. Iowa

24. West Virginia

25. Indiana

The FPI gives the Ducks a 76.4% chance to win the Pac-12 North and 46.2% chance to win the conference. ESPN has Oregon with an outside shot at the playoffs, at just 4.8%. 

ESPN projects Oregon to finish with around 10 wins, at (9.8-3).

The game against the Buckeyes will likely go a long way in determining their playoff faith. Win or lose, the playoff committee seems to value the strength of non-conference opponents, and Mario Cristobal has his team set to play more high profile teams like the Ohio State Buckeyes (2021), Georgia Bulldogs (2022), and Texas Tech Red Raiders (2023).

Oregon went 4-3 in 2020, and had to deal with multiple bumps in the road. 

The Ducks had their rivalry game against Washington cancelled due to COVID-19 issues within the Huskies program. They also lost two games they were more than capable of winning against Cal and Oregon State, But they put it all together to knock off previously undefeated USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game in Los Angeles.

There's a fair amount of question marks on this team heading into next season, but the Ducks also return a lot of veterans.

The offensive line will almost certainly take a step forward after allowing 11 sacks in 2020. All starters return and the team welcomes a talented haul of freshmen that are all already on campus in spring football. 

Further raising Oregon's stock is the duo of running backs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye. Quarterback is a question mark, but the team has an experienced option in Anthony Brown. If he ends up getting the starting job, his play will determine the validity of Oregon's playoff aspirations. 

On defense, the Ducks return bonafide studs in Kayvon Thibodeaux and Noah Sewell, who will be under the direction of new Defensive Coordinator Tim DeRuyter. He has a strong track record of assembling talented defenses, and the talent on Oregon's roster far outshines that of what he had in Berkeley. 

The team also welcomes Marcel Yates from Cal, who will be coaching the safeties. Cal's defensive backs were strong last year and Yates also brings defensive coordinator experience. 

Oregon has completed 6 of its 15 spring practices, and will hold its spring game on May 1. The Ducks will then take a bit of break from practicing until fall camp--which will likely be in August. 

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