Local: 503.250.1080
    Toll Free: 866.358.1080
| More
College Football
Scoreboard|Standings|Teams|Leaders|Polls

Oregon is Pac-12 favorite after Mariota's return

(AP Photo)

LOS ANGELES (AP) Although Marcus Mariota knew he would be under a spotlight when he stepped onto the famed Paramount Studios lot Wednesday, the Oregon quarterback is getting quite comfortable in his starring role.

"I've had to get used to it and come out of my shell a little bit, but I'm trying to enjoy it," Mariota said at the Pac-12's media day. "I take it as an honor and a privilege, and hopefully an opportunity to provide a good influence."

Coach Mark Helfrich and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott both used the league's first session of its two-day Hollywood kickoff event to praise Mariota for staying in school. The rest of the Pac-12 isn't quite as excited about the Heisman Trophy candidate's return after two dynamite seasons for the Ducks, but he's just one reason why they're favored to win their highly competitive league again.

Mariota and Oregon were picked to claim the Pac-12 title in the preseason media poll, topping that chart for the fourth time in five years. The verdict was an unsurprising vote of confidence in the mobile passer and the perennially powerful Ducks, who highlight an impressive list of contenders in the West Coast's power conference.

Mariota is the biggest reason for excitement around the Ducks, and the quarterback is working to raise his leadership skills to the level of his play after turning down untold NFL millions for another shot at a national title.

"A lot of guys talk a good game, but everything that guy does is gospel," Helfrich said. "If I'm the backup guard and I see that guy forgo what he could have made - it's not some lip-service dream, this is a reality of a ton of money. Like, `That guy turned down how much? OK, I'll watch him.' That's huge. I think it speaks to the type of guy he is, and hopefully to the type of program that we have."

Mariota said he returned to enjoy university life in Eugene. Since he's only taking golf and yoga this fall to finish up his degree, he'll have plenty of time.

"First and foremost, I wanted to get my degree," Mariota said. "My family has always valued education, and that was basically the major factor that brought me back. Secondly, it was to come back and enjoy college. You experience so many new things, and I wasn't ready to leave all that just yet."

Mariota even has one more year of eligibility. Although he insists he still hasn't decided whether he'll head to the NFL next year, his family also took out an insurance policy for this season.

Otherwise, Mariota and the Ducks aren't thinking past what's certain to be another tough year in a rising conference built on impressive quarterback talent and depth.

"The Pac-12 is better than it's ever been," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "Everybody is improving. There's a bunch of good players and coaches in this league, so how do you make that leap over everyone else? We talk about it as a staff. We've got to crank it up to another level, because the other teams aren't going backward."

UCLA is favored to win the South Division over second-place Southern California, but Oregon got 24 of the 39 votes to win the league title game in the Bay Area on Dec. 5. Stanford, last season's league champion, finished second behind Oregon in the North Division balloting.

USC coach Steve Sarkisian received nearly as much attention as Mariota in Hollywood. Sarkisian left Washington in the offseason to return to the Trojans, and he thinks his sanctions-depleted roster will be an immediate contender.

"We're going to focus on what we do have, not what we don't," said Sarkisian, who will have a full complement of scholarships next year. "We have a really talented roster of about 65 scholarship players. That is not ideal. That's OK. We're still really good. ... We've still got plenty of work to do, but if we can manage it the right way, we've got a chance."

Updated July 23, 2014

127 © 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

The Fan's Top Stories

Ducks #2 in unchanged college top 4


(AP) Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State remained the top four teams in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday heading into . . .more.

Mariota focused on the Civil War rivalry


(AP) Marcus Mariota says he hasn't made up his mind about what he's doing next season. It really doesn't matter because there's still plenty of work to do this season. The first item on the agenda . . . more.

Blazers win 8th straight


(AP) The Portland Trail Blazers didn't take the winless 76ers lightly following a lackluster first half. LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 of his 33 points during the pivotal third quarter to help the Trail Blazers . . . more.

FSU No. 1, top 4 unchanged in AP poll


(AP) Florida State is No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll, followed by Alabama, Oregon and Mississippi State. The top four teams were unchanged for the first time since late September. More.

Pac-12: replay crew erred in Stanford-Cal game


(AP) The Pac-12 Conference says its replay crew made two errors during Stanford's 38-17 win at California on Saturday. The officiating crew overturned a Cal touchdown . . . more.

Seahawks pluck Cardinals


(AP) After 10 games, the defending champions needed to ask the difficult questions of each other. Most of all, whether the Seattle Seahawks were willing to put aside egos and get back in the NFC West race. More.

Big plays help Huskies race past Beavers 37-13


(AP) Turned out there was no lingering hangover from the disappointment of a week earlier for Washington. Big plays and a quick start have the Huskies bowl eligible for a fifth-straight season. More.

Mariota has 4 TDs and Ducks beat Buffaloes 44-10


(AP) Marcus Mariota got his curtain call at Autzen Stadium. With the 44-10 victory already in hand Saturday against Colorado, No. 3 Oregon sent its Heisman-hopeful quarterback out for the first snap of the fourth quarter . . . more.

The FAN's NFL Page


Follow your favorite teams and players - for stats, previews, recaps and realtime gamecasts, make The FAN's NFL Page your pro football destination.

The FAN's College Football Page


Ducks, Beavers, Pac-12, you name it! For the latest stories and real time scores, head to The FAN's college football page here.