When Mike Bellotti promoted to Oregon athletics director in 2009, then-offensive coordinator Chip Kelly bumped up to the top spot. This season, with Kelly off to the Philadelphia Eagles, offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich took his first shot at the Ducks head coaching job.
The results, on the offensive side of the ball, have been the same.
Offensively, the Ducks are as good as anybody in the country, ranking sixth nationally in Offensive S&P+, including a No. 2 ranking in Rushing S&P+ and a No. 7 ranking in Passing S&P+. What's that mean from a traditional stats standpoint? Oregon is throwing for nearly 300 yards per game … while rushing for almost 280 yards per contest. And the Ducks have done that despite having just one listed senior starter on their Valero Alamo Bowl depth chart.
Oregon has had a number of good quarterbacks roll through campus the last several years, from Joey Harrington to Dennis Dixon. And Marcus Mariota (6-4 215) might be the best of the bunch because of his ability to gash defenses with either his legs or his arm. Mariota was arguably the Heisman Trophy frontrunner before suffering a leg injury, one that limited him — both of Oregon's losses came after he was hurt — but one that he played through.
Mariota's numbers are stellar. He completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 3,412 yards and 30 touchdowns to just four interceptions. And he rushed 81 times for 582 yards (7.2 per carry) and another nine scores, numbers that surely would have been even higher had he stayed healthy. He's not expected to be full-go against Texas, but Mariota at 85-90 percent (where some have estimated he'll be) is still incredibly dangerous. Don't forget that Iowa State's Sam Richardson was considerably less than full strength when he gave the Longhorn defense trouble with his legs.
It helps that the Ducks are loaded with big-play backs. Byron Marshall (5-10 201) rushed 155 times for 955 yards and 14 touchdowns this year, while De'Anthony Thomas (5-9 171) is among the most explosive players in the country, rushing for 581 yards and eight touchdowns with another 22 catches in an injury-plagued year. And true freshman Thomas Tyner (5-11 211) has the size and speed to be a special one in Eugene as well, rushing 109 times for 689 yards and nine touchdowns in his inaugural college season.
Of course, all those rushing threats, coupled with Mariota's arm, makes it even tougher to stop the Ducks' passing game. Josh Huff (5-11 199) has been the primary beneficiary of those big plays, taking his 57 catches for 1,036 yards and 11 touchdowns. Bralon Addison (5-10 181) has just one catch fewer with 56 snags for 842 yards and seven touchdowns. And Keanon Lowe (5-9 186) has another 18 catches for 233 yards and three TDs.
The Ducks are already down two tight ends with star Colt Lyerla leaving the team, and Pharaoh Brown missing the Alamo Bowl after getting suspended for a snowball fight. True freshman Johnny Mundt (6-4 232) is more of a receiving threat, averaging 17.4 yards per catch on his 15 catches with three touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Evan Baylis (6-6 235) is probably the better blocker of the two.
Oregon's offense is built around speed and dynamism, and the Ducks have constructed their offensive line the same way. Only one starter weighs 300-plus pounds, and that allows the Ducks to play with both tempo, and allows them to utilize a number of quick-hitting combination blocks to take advantage of their quickness. As a team, Oregon averages 6.3 yards per carry, and they've allowed 16 sacks this season, not a bad number for 12 games.
Center Hroniss Grasu (6-3 297) may be the best of the group, though there's certainly a lot of potential shown by Cameron Hunt (6-4 282), a freshman who started the last four games at right guard. Hamani Stevens (6-3 312) started the first eight games at right guard before moving to the starting left guard spot. He's the biggest of the five-man starting lineup. And tackles Tyler Johnstone (6-6 277) and Jake Fisher (6-6 293) are long, but not heavy.
Oregon has only attempted 10 field goals as a team this year, with Matt Wogan (6-2 197) making 4-of-5 and 39-of-41 extra points. Thomas has one touchdown on his 20 kickoff returns, while Addison is a dangerous punt returner, averaging 15 yards per return and scoring two touchdowns.