Oregon Ducks Cruising Toward Pac-12 Championship?

Eric Purdy reviews the eventful Oregon vs. Utah game and discusses the Duck's chances of winning the Pac-12 Championship.

Eric Purdy reviews the eventful Oregon vs. Utah game and discusses the Duck’s chances of winning the Pac-12 Championship.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Utah

Nov 8, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) passes the ball during the second half against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Oregon won 51-27. (Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports).

SALT LAKE CITY, (C+P) — For about 5 seconds, the ball was just lying there in the end zone at the feet of Oregon’s Erick Dargan. Utah’s Kaelin Clay was celebrating with his teammates what looked like a long touchdown catch to put the Utes up 14-0 in the second quarter against the fifth-ranked Ducks. Joe Walker knew better.

Clay had nonchalantly dropped the ball a yard before crossing the goal line. Walker returned Clay’s careless goal line fumble 100 yards for a touchdown and Marcus Mariota threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score as Oregon turned back No. 17 Utah 51-27 Saturday night.

Oct 24, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Oregon Ducks tight end Pharaoh Brown (85) celebrates with tight end Evan Baylis (81) after scoring a touchdown against the California Golden Bears in the fourth quarter at Levi's Stadium. The Ducks won 59-41.(Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)
Oct 24, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Oregon Ducks tight end Pharaoh Brown (85) celebrates with tight end Evan Baylis (81) after scoring a touchdown against the California Golden Bears in the fourth quarter at Levi’s Stadium. The Ducks won 59-41.(Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)

Mariota was not at his best, but he did nothing to hurt his Heisman Trophy hopes while keeping the Ducks (9-1, 6-1, No. 4 CFP, No. 5 AP) in the thick of the College Football Playoff race. The junior ran for 114 yards and was 17 for 29 for 239 yards passing.

Oregon also clinched the Pac-12 North and a spot in the conference championship game Dec. 5, but lost a key player. Tight end Pharoah Brown was carted off after an ugly right leg injury in the fourth quarter.

The Ducks have won five straight since losing to Arizona and seemed to have fixed the offensive line issues that hampered them early in the season.

There might be more problems to address. Playing without injured right tackle Matt Pierson, the Utes sacked Mariota on consecutive plays on the opening series. The Ducks also lost star center Hroniss Grasu to an injury in the fourth quarter. Oregon managed to keep Mariota upright by moving him in the pocket and throwing a lot of quick passes.

Oregon looks to be knocking on the Playoff door with a bag full of quality wins but Arizona State has been keeping pace in the Pac-12 South with a slew of heavy artillery barrages over quality opponents of their own. It would seem that Oregon is headed in the same direction as the Sun Devils and that could create an instant classic in the Pac 12 Championship.

Oregon (9-1. 6-1 Pac-12) seems to have the easiest path to the Pac-12 Championship. The Ducks will have a week off before hosting Colorado (2-8, 0-7 Pac-12) and then mopping up the season with a trip to Corvalis  for the Civil War against in-state rival, Oregon State (4-5, 1-5 Pac-12).

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