3. Oregon will have the best defense in the Pac-12
Last season, Oregon’s defense was slightly disappointing. With all the talent the Ducks had in the defensive backfield on up front, they finished just 62nd nationally in total yards allowed per game and 59th in scoring defense — that was good for just fifth and sixth in the Pac-12, respectively.
That wasn’t good enough to make a national title push, and that’s why the Ducks finished just 4-3 with a tough blowout loss to Iowa State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Oregon gave up 34-plus points three times which isn’t ideal for a seven-game season. But that’s going to change under new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter.
On the flip side, DeRuyter led a less talented Cal defense to the No. 48 scoring defense and 38th total defense nationally — also good for fifth and third in the Pac-12, respectively. If he can do that with far less talent at Cal, imagine what he can do with a handful of All-Pac-12 candidates and a couple of All-Americans at Oregon.
The Ducks will rise up and surpass Washington and Utah for the top overall defense in the conference this season thanks to a shake-up from DeRuyter and guys like Kayvon Thibodeaux, Mykael Wright, Noah Sewell, and Justin Flowe having All-American-type seasons.