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Oregon tabbed as favorite to take Pac-12

Wed, Jul 23, 2014


HOLLYWOOD, CA. -- Oregon is the favorite to win the Pac-12, according to a preseason poll of media members who cover the league. The Ducks were picked to win the South Division by 37 of 39 voters participating in the poll. Twenty-four of the 39 voters picked the Ducks to win the conference overall, over UCLA (24 votes). 

The 2013 North Division winner, Stanford, was picked to finish second in the North Division (2 votes) while UCLA ran away with the voting in the South Division, earning 37 votes over USC (1) and Arizona State (1). 

The Pac-12 Championship game is Dec. 5 at 6pm PT at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers.

1. Oregon (37) 232
2. Stanford (2) 192
3. Washington 142
4. Oregon State 125
5. Washington State 87
6. California 41
1. UCLA (37) 231
2. USC (1) 181
3. Arizona State (1) 163
4. Arizona 119
5. Utah 82
6. Colorado 43
PAC-12 TITLE GAME CHAMPION:  Oregon (24 votes)
Others receiving votes:  UCLA (13), Stanford (1), USC (1)


Oregon's top recruiting for the 2014 season was quarterback Marcus Mariota -- the fourth-year junior decided to forego the NFL Draft and return to Eugene. 
"The main factor was to come back and earn my degree," Mariota said. "I understand that I'm a student-athlete. I wanted to finish what I started. And secondly, I wanted to experience college. I wanted to go back and continue to build those relationships are everlasting. And that's stuff that's really special and I wasn't really ready to run away from that yet. So, it's an exciting time for myself as well as the university and I'm looking forward to another year."
"He’s 100% true," said his coach, Mark Helfrich. "He’s 100% dedicated to the team, and 100% credible. A lot of guys talk a good game. Everything that guy does is gospel. If I'm the back-up 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. Then there are certain elements that eliminate that. Like that guy turned down how much? Okay, I'll watch him. That's huge. I think it speaks to the type of guy he is, the type of teammate  he is, and certainly hopefully to the type of program that we have."


Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott kicked off Pac-12 Media Days with his annual address to the media.

"Our conference has never been stronger or deeper," Scott said, referencing that 10 of the conference's 12 schools have returning starting quarterbacks. "This suggests it's going to be another exceptional year."

Scott highlighted the conference's first-ever championship game at a neutral site, set for Dec. 5 at Levi's Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers.

"It's an amazing opportunity for our fans," Scott said. "This stadium in the epitome of west coast innovation. I cannot imagine a better home for any conference championship game."


The Pac-12 plays 13 non-conference games against teams that played in bowl games last year and will test itself against the BigTen (5 games), Notre Dame (3 games) and UCLA will face Texas in an early-season matchup. Oregon faces Michigan State in week two of the season, in what is likely a matchup of top-ten or even top-five teams.

In addition to the nine conference game each team will play, Scott said, "Our champions will be incredibly well positioned to make the college football playoff."

Scott said he was pleased the game finally has a playoff system, yet said he was happy the Pac-12 was able to maintain its relationship with the Rose Bowl.


Scott addressed the potential changes ahead in college sports, pushing for restoring the balance of academics/athletics as well as providing fininacial support to student athletes. He said in the Pac-12, only two percent of football players are drafted and only three percent of basketball players go to the NBA.

"My focus is on the  97 or 98 percent (who don't go pro) and providing an opportunity that will allow them to be more successful in life," Scott said. "The collegiate model is working for the vast majority of student athletes."


Wildcats WR Austin Hill (6-3, 210) missed all of the 2013 season after suffering an injury in spring practice. But as a junior he was second in the Pac-12 in receiving yards (1,364). So, he will be a valuable weapon once head coach Rich Rodriguez is able to pick a starting quarterback. Rodriguez is excited to have Hill's on-field production and leadership.
"We've got a lot of receivers that we're going to be playing this year and Austin's going to be one of the guys that can help teach them every position," Rodriguez said. "So he's like a coach on the field for us, and I know he's hungry to get out there and play. When you have an injury like Austin did, particularly coming off such a great year like he did, you have to sit back and kind of evaluate, 'gosh, how much did I miss this game?' And Austin, you could see it in his eyes throughout last season that he was hungry to get out there and it was hurting him not being out there helping us win games. But he's in good shape now. He's actually taken the knee brace off for workouts now, which is a good thing."


Another Pete Carroll protege takes over at USC, this time Steve Sarkisian (who replaced fellow Carroll protege Lane Kiffin). Sarkisian comes over from Washington, but plans on bringing his own philosophies USC.
"(Coach Carroll's) final words me walking out there was, go be you. Because when adversity strikes, the real you is going to come out anyway. I've always held on to that. I really feel like I have. Pete and I are different people.  We're very different people. Do I hold on to some of the philosophies I learned from him? Sure I do. But we are definitely different people and that won't change here. You have to be yourself. I think I can be and by doing it the right way, I think we'll be successful."


USC isn't going to the spread like a lot of other teams, but will join the latest fad in college football and pick up the pace on offense. 
"We're going to go fast, and that is something that will be very different than has ever been seen at the Coliseum," Sarkisian said. "The schemes are going to look similar, but we are going to go fast. It's going to be a faster paced game. Hopefully a more exciting game for our fans, one that captivates them and keeps them into the game and utilizes the home-field advantage theColiseum can give you."
Cody Kesler (6-1,225) returns at quarterback after taking over the starting job on week three of the 2013 season. He finished the season 238-363 passing (65.6%) for 2,977 yards with 20 TD and 9 INT. He threw for a career-best 345 yards and was the MVP in the Trojans' Las Vegas Bowl win over Fresno State.