October 26 - UCLA
Why they could - The Bruins are the only team in the conference that has not one, but two players who are just as dynamic as Marcus Mariota in Brett Hundley and Anthony Barr. Hundley is the kind of guy who can keep an entire defense on their toes all game and Barr is the kind of physical freak who could actually match Mariota's athleticism. Outside of pure star power, the Bruins are maybe the most balanced and talented team in the conference other than the Ducks - their defense isn't great, but good and unlike a team like Stanford, they have a good offense that can compete in a shootout. In another good matchup for the Bruins, they are very athletic and strong up front with a defensive line that has guys like Keenan Graham, Cassius Marsh, Ellis McCarthy and Eddie Vanderdoes. Like a good SEC program, the Bruins have a number of skilled big bodies to throw out there along with big, well-tackling linebackers and Barr.
Also, the past two years, the Ducks have won the most hyped game on their schedule on the road (2011= Stanford 2012 = USC) only to lose a sneaky game at home against a less hyped opponent and this game very much fits that recipe.
Why they won't- While solid, the Bruins' defense is very inexperienced in the secondary, and in the change of pace, the Ducks have actually been more dangerous in their passing game in a lot of ways than in their running game. On offense, the Bruins are strong, but inexperienced in their offensive line, which could really be exposed on the road against a Duck defense that rushes the passer as good as anyone in the country and loves to blitz under Nick Allioti, especially in a raucous Autzen Stadium.
November 7 - at Stanford
Why they could - Despite their recent struggles, the Cardinal still have the biggest, scariest and best defense in the conference and exactly the kind of athletes that have given the Duck offense fits in the past four years. The strength of the Cardinal is that they have eight or nine big guys that can move that they can sub in and out to try and slow the Oregon offense and that's pretty much the only way that has been proven to do it. The Cardinal are also one of the few teams in the country that because their front seven is so good, they can regularly get pressure on quarterbacks without blitzing and collapse the pocket on both sides which is your only hope for containing Mariota.
The Cardinal haven't been that great on offense this year, but they do have a good enough to line to where they can pound the ball, control the clock and keep the Duck offense off the field - shortening the game and limiting their possessions and their scoring opportunities.
Why they won't - Outside of one amazing half against Arizona State and a demolition of an average Washington State team, the Cardinal simply haven't looked very good in 2013. Most surprisingly, their vaunted defense hasn't been amongst the best in the conference statistically and has regularly let opponents move the ball against them at well. It should be especially troubling for Stanford how they struggled against Washington's up-tempo if they hope to compete with the Ducks'.
On offense, the Cardinal hope that their defense will put them in a position like they did in 2012, where they don't have to score much to win, but that is probably going to be tough to duplicate, and this offense doesn't look poised to suddenly start putting up points a plenty on anyone right now. The Cardinal will also especially miss not having an All-American tight end for the first time in a while, as Zach Ertz was integral in them pulling off the upset in Eugene last season and they have been unable to find anyone that can fill his shoes at all.
November 16 - Utah
Why they could win - The Utes have one of the most underrated front sevens in the country, especially at defensive end and linebacker. They also have one of the better combinations of size and speed on their defense in the Pac-12 and that could be the perfect combination for combating the Duck offense.
Why they won't - The Utes are much improved this season, but probably not yet ready mentally or physically to head into Autzen in November and pull off one of the biggest upsets in conference history. From a matchup perspective, the Utes' primary problem probably has to do with their passing game executing in likely adverse weather against what is one of the best secondaries in the country at home in a hostile environment. Most importantly, sophomore Ute quarterback Travis Wilson has struggled with interceptions so facing the aforementioned nasty elements against an opportunistic secondary could easily spell doom very early for Utah if he isn't careful.
November 23 - at Arizona
Why they could win - The Wildcats have tried to copy the Ducks' style under Rich Rodriguez and have done it pretty well, getting off plays in a flash, moving the ball on the ground and regularly quick-striking with big plays. The Wildcats can also control the ball with arguably the nation's best running back in Ka'Deem Carey who can take over a game and keep punching back with his strength even if he gets 35 to 40 carries in the game.
Why they won't - The Wildcat defense is improved, but still doesn't look like they will be ready to do much against the most dynamic offense in the country after getting handled by Washington and USC. The Wildcats aren't very big up front, which is the key to slowing down the Ducks' attack and don't get pressure on quarterbacks very well, which is pretty much a death sentence when facing Mariota.
On offense, the Wildcats have started to show some signs of life in their offense, particularly in their passing game, but quarterback B.J. Denker still seems like a big downgrade from Matt Scott and they haven't found a receiver to replace the injured Austin Hill. Even with those two going full steam in 2012, the Wildcats managed a 49-0 outcome against the Ducks, so it's hard to imagine they will be able to muster much better without.
November 29 - Oregon State
Why they could win - The Beavers are due against the Ducks in a very bad way. I know that the way that the Ducks play kind of eliminates the concept of the football gods and breaks, but the Beavers at some point will catch some breaks against the Ducks and at least take it down to the wire with the Ducks.
Outside of just pure breaks, I think the Beavers might have the best chance of any of the Pac-12 teams left on the Ducks' schedule of pulling off the upset. The Beavers can score, they can score a lot, yes, they are one dimensional and that dimension happens to go up against the Ducks' strength, but I don't see anyone stopping Brandin Cooks and the Beavers' offensive line might be able to protect Sean Mannion long enough to let him get Cooks the ball. On defense, the Beavers are improving each and every week, are strong at corner and defensive end and tackle well, all keys to hanging with the Ducks.
Why they won't - As I mentioned earlier, the Beavers' strengths don't matchup well for them against the Ducks'. Sean Mannion has been prone to interceptions throughout his career, and turning the ball over against the Ducks is poison. Even though it seems impossible to stop Cooks, the physical Ifo Ekpre-Olomu could pose problems for the small receiver at the line and without a running game to speak of, the Ducks will be able to relentlessly blitz Mannion.
On the other side of the ball, even though the Beaver defense has improved every week, the thought of them facing Mariota and the Duck offense right now seems scary.
December 7 - Pac-12 Championship Game vs. South Champion (Let's say UCLA in Eugene)
Why they could win - I think UCLA will win the South and have to return to Autzen and rematches usually favor the team that lost the first game in the mental game, case in point how UCLA got dominated by Stanford in the regularly season only to take them to the wire in the Pac-12 Championship in 2012. Other than that, all of the reasons should be the same that they are in regular season matchup between the two.
Why they won't - The Ducks never seem to be affected by things like teams out for revenge and it will be an LA team playing in Eugene in December at night.
January 6 - BCS National Championship Game vs. Unknown
Who - I would bet Alabama, but as history goes, at least one team in the national championship will not be the team that is expected to be in there halfway through the season. If not Alabama it will be one of the remaining undefeated superpowers (Ohio State or Florida State) or one of the unexpected undefeated teams (Missouri, Miami, Baylor, Texas Tech).
It's kind of impossible to speculate on if a team could beat them when you truly can't peg a team to be an opponent for sure, but if it is in fact Alabama as everyone hopes, here you go...
Why they could win - For as dominant as Oregon has been the past few years, the Crimson Tide have been even more dominant, though not in a weekly box score way and it is because they are bigger, stronger and more talented than everyone else in college football, Oregon included. The Crimson Tide are loaded with NFL talent at every position and can use it to adjust to whatever style they like, whether they need to outscore someone, or grind out a wind with the ground game and defense.
The most crucial place where Alabama needs to use their advantage is up front. Previously SEC teams like Auburn and LSU have been able to outmatch the Ducks up front and slow their run game, get pressure on the quarterback and control the ball with their own running game and it made the difference in the end.
Why they won't - The Crimson Tide aren't quite as experienced or talented as they have been in recent years, especially up front where they need to be to take care of the Ducks. It might seem crazy to say that with how much talent the Crimson Tide do have, but they are not as loaded with first round draft picks as much as they have been in recent seasons, especially up front on defense.