It’s been a banner year for the Oregon Ducks, and it’s only going to get better.
The first goal was checked off the list Friday when the No. 2 Ducks (12-1) claimed their second Pac-12 championship in four years with a 51-13 victory over the No. 7 Arizona Wildcats (10-3).
Each year, the primary goal for any team isn’t to win a national championship. It must first secure a conference championship. And Oregon effectively did so while rectifying the team’s only loss of the season.
Team success often comes with individual success.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is the heart and soul of the Ducks program. For three years, he’s led the program while shattering school and conference records.
Mariota posted a monster junior campaign and only added to it Friday with 313 passing yards and five total touchdowns. His performance this year is one of the record books, as FOX Sports’ Bruce Feldman illustrated:
Mariota successfully threw a pass in every single game he’s played in as a member of the Oregon Ducks. He’s thrown 101 career touchdowns compared to only 12 interceptions. He broke the Pac-12 career record for most touchdowns accounted for. According to Oregon senior associate athletic director Craig Pintens, Mariota’s 53 total touchdowns are more than any of the previous four Heisman Trophy winners prior to their bowl games.
Just hand Mariota the Heisman Trophy now. Go on.
He’s ready and everything…
But a Pac-12 championship and even the school’s first Heisman Trophy winner — eventually, that is — aren’t the ultimate goal.
With their dominant victory Friday, the No. 2 Ducks clinched a spot among the final four teams in the first College Football Playoff.
The primary discussion heading into this weekend’s slate of games is whether or not Oregon deserves to be ranked No. 1 overall. The Ducks have the best non-conference win against the No. 8 Michigan State Spartans and completely controlled the Wildcats during the Pac-12 Championship Game.
The College Football Playoff committee supposedly resets the rankings each week based on what they saw during the previous weekend’s results. The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide could slide slightly if it struggles against the No. 16 Missouri Tigers in the SEC Championship Game.
In the end, it may not be all that important for the Ducks to be ranked first or second overall.
Oregon still needs two more wins to check off all of the boxes on this year’s wish list.
If the Ducks continue to play like they have over the last five games, the program could lay claim to its seventh Pac-10/12 conference championship, first Heisman Trophy and only national championship.