EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — South Dakota coach Joe Glenn has no illusions about the Oregon team the Coyotes will face on Saturday night.
"We're going to go play one of the top talented teams in the country. We're going to see speed, probably, that we won't see again this season. We're going to see a quarterback who's supposed to win the Heisman Trophy," he said. "They're a very, very talented team. We all know that."
Oregon opens the season ranked No. 3 in the AP Top 25 after going 11-2 last season, capped by a victory over Texas in the Alamo Bowl. The Coyotes finished 4-8 overall and 3-5 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference last season.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota, who opted to return to the Ducks this season rather than declare for the NFL draft, is one of the main reasons Oregon has been selected to win the Pac-12 title this season.
Mariota threw for 3,665 yards and 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.
While the game may appear to be a glorified scrimmage for Oregon, Mariota was still excited about it.
"All the emotions, all the great things about college football are still going to be there for us," he said. "We're very excited. We know Autzen is going to be crazy. It's a late kickoff and Autzen is always fun during that time. We're really looking forward to it."
More than anything, the game will provide Oregon with an opportunity to smooth out some of the rough edges before hosting No. 8 Michigan State the next weekend.
"As an offense, I want to be able to execute to the best of our abilities, to go out and start fast. We had a tendency last year to kind of start off a little slow, including myself," Mariota said. "That's one thing I want to see, and just continue to prepare and go out there and have fun with it and build a strong foundation for the rest of the season."
The Coyotes are just looking to learn from the experience.
"Having to play a team like that, it can only make you better," Glenn said. "And that's what we'll do, we'll get better and come home and play the rest of the season."
Here are some other things to consider when Oregon hosts South Dakota on Saturday night:
MARIOTA MILESTONES: Oregon's junior QB needs one more touchdown to surpass Joey Harrington on Oregon's career list. Mariota has 63 passing scores, 14 rushing and one receiving. Harrington finished his career at Oregon with 59 passing, 18 rushing and one receiving. Mariota also needs four more passing touchdowns to break Oregon's career record of 66 held by Darron Thomas.
MARIOTA'S COUNTERPART: At quarterback the Coyotes have junior Kevin Earl, who started in the final eight games last season and finished with 1,920 yards passing and nine touchdowns. He ran for another three scores. His best game came against Northern Iowa, when he passed for 370 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-31 double overtime victory.
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Over the past five seasons, Oregon has beaten up on opponents visiting Autzen Stadium by an average margin of victory of 28.7 points. The Ducks are tied with LSU for the best home record over that span, 33-2. Oregon also has the nation's third-longest sellout streak at 96 straight games dating back to 1999.
COYOTES LOSS, FALCONS GAIN: South Dakota's defense lost one of its leaders with the departure of Tyler Starr, who became the school's all-time sacks leader and was the MVFC Defensive player of the Year last year. Starr graduated to the Atlanta Falcons in this year's NFL draft.
BRUISE BROTHERS: With running back Jasper Sanders sidelined for all of last season with a wrist injury, the Coyotes saw the emergence of the so-called "Bruise Brothers," redshirt freshman Trevor Bouma and Jordan Roberts. Bouma ran for 781 yards and three touchdowns while Roberts ran for 544 yards and three TDs.