College Football's New Look

Fisher wants his players to take confidence -- not self-satisfaction -- from being champions. He worries about a collective feeling of " 'I was the reason.' Everyone thinks they are the reason," Fisher said. "No one's the reason you won. No one's the reason you lost. But collectively, we're the reason you won and the reason you lost."

So far, his players are saying the right things.

"We're not complacent," Edwards said. "We're hunting for another one. The team that won last year had a one-year lifespan. We have to go get it this time."

The difference between a good season and a good program is that long-term lease on dominance. This season will go a long way toward deciding whether Fisher gets to sign it.

EUGENGE, Ore. -- As a younger coach, long before he had invested 21 seasons in the Oregon Ducks, Don Pellum went to the NCAA workshops that serve as mixers for athletic directors and minority coaches.

"At a certain point, if you want to be a coordinator or head coach, you have to hop on that train," Pellum said. "I just made a decision that I'm in a great place. Oregon has been a great place."

And so he stayed. Pellum got used to seeing coaching friends show up on the recruiting trail wearing a different logo every year or two. But he remained secure in his decision to stay with the Ducks. It may have taken longer for him than most, but Pellum got the best of both worlds. He and his wife, Marla, never left Eugene. In January, Oregon coach Mark Helfrich promoted Pellum, adding the job of defensive coordinator to his duties as inside linebackers coach.

Helfrich is acutely aware of the Oregon tradition of promoting from within, because that's how he replaced Chip Kelly a year ago. Helfrich said he didn't limit his search to his defensive staff. But he didn't waste a lot of time naming Pellum, either.

"He's a really good coach," Helfrich said. "He's a very organized guy, a disciplined guy, a smart guy, and the players love him."

Senior corner and defensive leader Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is delighted with the coaching change.

"Coach Pellum makes sure everything is structured, you could say," Ekpre-Olomu said. "That's where he can help our team out, because a lot of our guys need that. .... He's able to come up to you in practice and get [the information] to you and at the same time get to the next play. That's one of his strengths, really. He's a great motivator."

Pellum plans to change Oregon's methods of blitzing opposing quarterbacks. The Ducks, even though they finished seventh in the FBS in defensive passing efficiency, finished seventh in the Pac-12 with 29 sacks. But, per the norm at Oregon, anything other than a smooth transition would be a shock. If nothing else, the new defensive coordinator knows the place.

The Talent

Editor's note: To whittle our list of playoff contenders from 16 to eight, we identified that unique talent or skill that each remaining team possesses to differentiate it.

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