Oregon one win from Pac-12 North title
EUGENE — The first step for No. 5 Oregon on the road to the first football final four: Winning the North Division.
After the imposing 45-16 victory over two-time division and Pac-12 champion Stanford, the Ducks are only one victory away from clinching the North Division for the first time since 2011.
With three games remaining in the regular season, Oregon (8-1 overall, 5-1 conference) owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Stanford (5-4, 3-3), Washington (6-3, 2-3) and California (5-4, 3-4).
Struggling Oregon State (4-4, 1-4) hosts the Civil War on Nov. 29. Disappointing Washington State (2-7, 1-5) has already been eliminated from the divisional race and bowl contention.
The Pac-12 championship game will be played on Dec. 5 at Levi’s Stadium, where the Ducks routed Cal 59-41 on Oct. 24.
“We’ve got a long way to go here and some really good teams to play,” offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. “With the line blocking the way they are and the backs running the way they are, it’s going to give us a chance.”
Arizona State (7-1, 5-1), which lost to Stanford in last season’s conference title game, is currently leading the South Division race again.
USC (6-3, 5-2), UCLA (7-2, 4-2), Arizona (6-2, 3-2) and Utah (6-2, 3-2) are all a game back in the loss column.
Colorado (2-7, 0-6), which visits Autzen Stadium on Nov. 22 after a bye week for the Ducks, can only try to play the roll of spoiler.
VEGAS LOVE: According to Bovada Las Vegas, Oregon is currently the favorite to win the College Football Playoff at 9-to-2 odds.
Alabama (5/1), Florida State (6/1), Mississippi State (7/1) and Michigan State (8/1) round out the top five.
Marcus Mariota still has the best odds (1/2) of winning the Heisman Trophy, followed by Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott (4/1), Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson (10/1), Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon (10/1) and Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall (14/1).
The Pac-12 announced on Monday that Mariota was the conference’s offensive player of the week for the third time this season and second straight week.
Mariota’s passing performance against Stanford — 19-for-30 with 258 yards, two touchdowns and an interception — didn’t even meet his lofty standards.
“His confidence is fine,” coach Mark Helfrich said. “He’s still our superman and he believes in himself and we believe in him without exception.”
Mariota, who added 85 yards rushing and two touchdowns, has been named a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award as national player of the year on offense.
NOTABLE: All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award for defensive players. … Oregon leads the Pac-12 in scoring offense (45.4 ppg), and Utah is No. 2 in scoring defense (21.4 ppg) behind Stanford (16.1 ppg), which was allowing an average of 12.5 points before facing the Ducks. … The Utes, who have co-starters at quarterback in Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson, are last in the conference in passing offense (175.2 yards per game).
QUOTABLE: “I’m not going to lie, it was good,” offensive line coach Steve Greatwood said of how it felt to watch his unit open up holes for 267 net yards rushing against a Stanford defense that dominated the Ducks in 2012 and 2013. “We haven’t had a great deal of success against them recently. We executed well, we were able to play from a lead rather than from behind. I think we were able to stick with the game plan and do what we were able to do.”