By Rob Moseley
Under the new College Football Playoff format now in effect, every team in the country is playing for one of four coveted spots in the national semifinals to be hosted this season by the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.
Those spots will be earned through play on the field, when the 2014 season kicks off later this month. The Oregon football team stands a good chance of getting there, according to the preseason coaches’ poll released Thursday by USA Today.
The Ducks were ranked No. 4 in the country Thursday, and got one first-place vote from the panel of 62 coaches participating in the USA Today poll, which is now sponsored by Amway. Defending national champion Florida State is the preseason No. 1 team, followed by Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon and Auburn.
The Ducks went 11-2 in 2013, Mark Helfrich’s first season as head coach, and finished the year at No. 9 after beating Texas in the Alamo Bowl. Their No. 4 preseason ranking for 2014 makes it four straight years in which Oregon has been in the top five of the preseason coaches’ poll.
Oregon, which opens preseason camp Monday, led a pool of six Pac-12 teams ranked in the preseason coaches’ poll. The Ducks were followed by No. 7 UCLA, No. 11 Stanford, No. 15 USC, No. 18 Arizona State and No. 25 Washington. The Cardinal and Huskies visit Autzen Stadium this fall, as does Michigan State, which was ranked No. 8 by the coaches.
Oregon opens the season Aug. 30 at home against South Dakota, and hosts the Spartans a week later. Pac-12 play begins Sept. 20 at Washington State.