EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon opened fall camp on Monday as the early favorite in the Pac-12. There's good reason: Quarterback Marcus Mariota is back.
Mariota averaged nearly 282 yards passing per game and threw for 31 touchdowns with only four interceptions last season. He also rushed for 715 yards and nine scores. His 4,380 yards of total offense set a school record.
There was speculation last season that he'd jump to opportunities in the NFL, but Mariota announced early on that he was sticking with the Ducks.
On Monday, Mariota said his decision didn't have all that much to do with "unfinished business" after Oregon lost two games last season to fall out of national championship contention.
"For me I wanted to come back and get my degree, come back and enjoy another year with the guys and experience college for another year," he said.
Experiencing college for another year for Mariota means taking classes in — seriously — yoga and golf. The junior quarterback already has his degree in general science, wrapping up his studies in three years.
In large part because of Mariota's return, Oregon has been picked in the annual poll of reporters who cover the conference to finish this season atop the Pac-12 North and claim the league's championship.
Oregon was ranked No. 4 in the preseason Amway coaches poll. The AP Top 25 will be released Aug. 17.
Mariota was a Heisman contender last season before struggling with a left knee injury. The Ducks had climbed to No. 2 in the AP rankings and were seemingly on course for a national championship bid. Then came Stanford.
It turns out Mariota had partially torn the medial collateral ligament in his left knee against UCLA the week before and the Cardinal beat the Ducks 26-20.
The Ducks rebounded to beat Utah, but then fell 42-16 to the fired-up Arizona Wildcats in Tucson. The loss dropped Oregon to No. 12 and skewered the Ducks' chances of a national championship bid.
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