Oregon will get a chance to ease its way into the season when the No. 4 Ducks host South Dakota on Saturday night, bringing back 10 starters from an offense that averaged 45.5 points last season. Oregon will again be led by quarterback Marcus Mariota, a three-year starter who threw for 3,665 yards and 31 touchdowns last season despite battling a knee injury during the middle part of the campaign. Mariota is one of three Ducks who were projected to go high in last spring’s NFL Draft but opted to return for another year.
About the only bad news for the Oregon offense thus far is the loss of last season’s second-leading receiver, Bralon Addison, to a torn ACL in spring drills. Addison is hoping to make it back for next week’s game against Michigan State but may end up missing the entire month of September as a precaution. South Dakota surprised Minnesota 41-38 in 2010, but with the departure of last season's entire secondary staying close against the Ducks will take a Herculean effort.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network. LINE: Oregon -51.
ABOUT SOUTH DAKOTA (2013: 4-8): Kevin Earl started the final eight games at quarterback for the Coyotes last season, highlighted by a 370-yard, three-touchdown performance in a double-overtime win against Northern Iowa. Jasper Sanders will be the go-to running back after making the Missouri Valley Conference all-Newcomer team in 2012, then missing all of last season with a wrist injury. South Dakota’s defense will be anchored by lineman Drew Iddings and linebacker Keyen Lage, both of whom started all 12 games last season, combining for 6.5 sacks.
ABOUT OREGON (2013: 11-2): The Ducks have a new defensive coordinator in Don Pellum, who hopes to make the unit more aggressive, especially up front. Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner give Oregon two outstanding ends with Alex Balducci holding down the middle of the line. Tui Talia, a junior college transfer, and freshman Austin Maloata should also give the Ducks solid depth up front.
1. Oregon is the only team in the FBS to win at least nine games in each of the last seven seasons.
2. Mariota has thrown at least one touchdown pass in all 26 games of his career.
3. Oregon sophomore Matt Wogan will handle kicking, punting and kickoffs to start the season.
PREDICTION: Oregon 59, South Dakota 7.