Oregon Ducks: Oregon Ducks
That, as we noted on Tuesday, makes Oregon the 2014 Pac-12 favorite, no matter that running back De'Anthony Thomas and/or cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu are unlikely to follow his example. In fact, the Ducks are a good bet to begin the season with another top-five ranking, in large part due to Mariota still being behind center -- his two-time first-team All-Pac-12 center Hroniss Grasu, no less.
Every other conference team that has reasonable designs on contending next fall will have more questions than Oregon.
Arizona State and Stanford, who play Saturday for the right to go to the Rose Bowl, are senior-heavy teams. Both will welcome back their quarterbacks, Taylor Kelly and Kevin Hogan, respectively, but they will take significant hits on both sides of the ball, particularly on defense. UCLA also is likely welcoming back quarterback Brett Hundley, and it looks like the South Division favorite, but it, too, will be replacing some key star power on defense, starting with outside linebacker Anthony Barr.
The most preseason buzz, however, will surround Oregon, and Mariota will be the guy on the cover of all the magazines.
While Ducks fans aren't really looking ahead just yet because many are crossing their fingers over an outside shot at a BCS bowl game -- Discover Orange Bowl vs. Alabama! -- there is enough of a pause in the action to consider the state of the Ducks.
Was Year One under Mark Helfrich a success? A failure? Somewhere in between?
Some Ducks fans, the national-title-or-bust ones, already view it as a failure. Others would join that crowd if Oregon loses its bowl game, wherever that may be.
The more reasoned position is to be mildly disappointed that it became a transitional year, post-Chip Kelly, and that specific circumstances -- Mariota's sprained knee and a uniquely deep Pac-12 -- waylaid what was clearly a pretty darn good team, perhaps as good as any of the other Ducks BCS bowl teams.
As you might have noticed, it's not easy to go undefeated. Just ask Baylor, Alabama and every other college football team unfortunate enough not to play Ohio State's, Florida State's and Northern Illinois's soft schedules. Kelly, as big as his brain is, managed only to do it once before losing the national title game. That year, however, the only other Pac-12 team that ended up ranked was Stanford, and the third-best record in the conference was 8-5 USC.
In other words -- and most Pac-12 fans should not read the end of this sentence -- 10-2 isn't that bad. Notice that no other conference team did better.
But who said rationality was part of being a college football fan?
So, knowing that irrational impatience typically prevails, Helfrich is fortunate to have Mariota returning. A third-year starter at quarterback will provide stability and leadership. It's no guarantee of success -- see USC's Matt Barkley -- but it solves the most critical position on any football team. The 2014 team will start with a 10-win over-under.
Of course, Ducks fans will embrace the over. That's life in Eugene now. Helfrich is well aware that he took over a program that no longer sees eight or nine wins as a successful season. He could be 21-4 at the end of the next regular season, but if the Ducks aren't headed to the inaugural College Football Playoff, there will be a strong sentiment that the program has taken a step back under Helfrich.
Mariota is the biggest reason to bet the over. He's the biggest reason Helfrich might coax some breathing room out of his second go-around.
Still, one of the big stories in the Pac-12 in 2014 will be which way the Ducks trend: Do they regain their footing atop the conference? Or does evidence accumulate suggesting a clear decline?
Here are the top five storylines that Pac-12 recruiting fans should be watching for during the week of practices and the game, which is set for 4 p.m. ET on Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be televised on ESPN.
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There was some good news for the Pac-12 in the updated class rankings released on Wednesday as Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon all moved up. The Wildcats maintained their grip on the top class in the conference and now sit at No. 18 overall. The Sun Devils jumped two places -- from No. 24 to No. 22 -- largely on the strength of a commitment from four-star running back Demario Richard (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale), and in doing so, leapt Stanford for the No. 2 spot in the Pac-12. The Cardinal slid two spots, down to No. 25 overall, while Oregon remains the fourth conference team among the top 40, up to places to No. 30 overall. Here's a look at the conference's rankings.
Trending up: In the 2013 class, Arizona State didn't sign and enroll a single four-star high school prospect. With Richard's commitment on Monday, the Sun Devils now have eight in their 2014 class. While Richard is the first commitment since mid-November, Arizona State's on-field performance has recruits buzzing about the future of the Sun Devils and with a win this weekend, coach Todd Graham will have an opportunity to close out this class in a big way.
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I give Marcus Mariota a lot of credit for his decision to return to Oregon for his redshirt junior season. While this is a very deep class of quarterbacks, there isn’t a clear-cut elite QB prospect, and with the number of QB-needy teams at the top of this year's draft, there was an opening for him to be the No. 1 overall pick. I think that if he had decided to leave, he would have been the first quarterback taken.
But even though he’s turning down a huge paycheck for this upcoming season, I think he made the right decision.
My guess is that part of Mariota’s choice was a result of him evaluating himself and realizing that he still has room to grow as a quarterback. His regular season didn’t end in the same positive way you might have expected based on his early-season play, and a knee injury that limited his running ability was a big reason why. His explosiveness as a runner is a big part of his game, so when that was taken away it forced him to be more of a pocket passer, and showed him that he’s not quite where he needs to be in that area.
Read the rest of the story here.
After a trying second half of the season, Christmas came early for Oregon coach Mark Helfrich when quarterback Marcus Mariota announced Tuesday that he would return for his redshirt junior season instead of entering the NFL draft, in which he almost certainly would have been an early first-round selection.
As a stocking stuffer, two-time first-team All-Pac-12 center Hroniss Grasu also announced he will return. Goducks.com, the school’s athletics website, announced the news for both.
Mariota, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection for a second consecutive year, will be the preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy as he captains an offense that looks like it will welcome back eight starters, a calculation that doesn't include DAT or RB Byron Marshall, the Ducks leading rusher.
While the Ducks' defense will take a few hits, Helfrich's second team appears stacked and ready for a potential bounce-back season. North Division rival Stanford will be replacing a number of key stars on both sides of the ball, including eight players who earned first- or second-team All-Pac-12 honors.
Mariota completed 227 of 360 attempts for 3,412 yards with 30 touchdowns and four interceptions and rushed for 582 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He set a Pac-12 record from the end of last season into this year by attempting 353 passes without an interception. He ranks second in the nation in ESPN.com Stats & Information's Total QBR.
Of course, a knee injury suffered against UCLA on Oct. 26 hampered him over the second half of the season, most notably in the Ducks' first loss at Stanford. Still, the Ducks "down" year produced a 10-2 record, a sixth consecutive 10-win season with a bowl game left to play.
Mariota's return means that as many as 10 conference teams could welcome back their 2013 starting quarterback. We still await word from UCLA's Brett Hundley and Oregon State's Sean Mannion on whether they will enter the NFL draft. The return of Utah's Travis Wilson is up in the air due to health issues.
Only Arizona and Washington started seniors at QB this year.
The dual return of Mariota and Grasu means the brains of the Ducks' offense will be back in 2014. Grasu, perhaps the nation's top center, should have a mastery of the Ducks' offensive line calls, while Mariota figures to own an Andrew Luck-like knowledge of the nuances of the Ducks' offense as a third-year starter.
That's a huge advantage heading into 2014.
Further, their return is a vote of confidence in Helfrich. If one or the other didn't believe in the Ducks' first-year coach, they almost certainly would have moved on.
The only Ducks who might be unhappy with Mariota's decision are backup QBs Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues, who will be redshirt sophomores next season. They probably expected to be in a hotly contested competition for the starting job this spring. That said, they might benefit from another year of seasoning playing behind a future high NFL draft choice.
Of course, sometimes the celebrated return of a QB doesn't always work out (see: USC's Matt Barkley in 2012). Fans and NFL scouts will expect Mariota to be even better next fall. Comparable numbers might be viewed as a sign of his plateauing.
But that's a potentiality that isn't worth fretting over today.
Oregon fans were frustrated when the program lost two of its final four games and fell out of the national title race. Here's a guess that those frowns just turned upside down.
Several junior college prospects made immediate impacts in the Pac-12 this season, including Jaelen Strong at Arizona State, Steven Nelson at Oregon State and Vince Mayle at Washington State. The 2014 crop of junior college standouts will undoubtedly reveal a number of instant-impact players in the conference. Looking at the ESPN JC 50, five prospects stand out as important targets for conference teams.
1. DT Alfonso Hampton (Chula Vista, Calif./Southwestern College): The No. 10 overall prospect and No. 3 defensive tackle is only just tapping into his potential, as this is only his second year playing football. Hampton won't be a mid-year enrollee, so a number of schools are waiting to offer until they are sure that he will be academically ready to leave next spring. Arizona State, Oregon and USC have expressed interest and it wouldn't be surprising to see that interest turn to offers in the coming weeks.
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That was during the summer. Fast forward a few months, and Iheanacho is now preparing for in-home visits from three SEC programs this week. Iheanacho, No. 89 in the ESPN 300, will host Arkansas on Tuesday, LSU on Wednesday and Texas A&M on Thursday. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound receiver, a U.S. Army All-American, will announce where he’ll take his talents at the game on Jan. 4 in San Antonio.
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Here’s some more on the trio, per the Pac-12’s release:
Huff, a senior from Houston, Texas, posted a career-high nine catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns in a last-minute 36-35 win in the Civil War over Oregon State on Friday evening. After catching a 12-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 3:09 remaining, Huff followed with another 12-yard score for the game-winning touchdown with 29 seconds remaining in the game. All three of his second-half scoring catches brought the Ducks back from deficits and eight of his nine receptions resulted in first down or touchdowns.
Randall, a junior from Pensacola, Fla., was responsible for two turnovers, including a 64-yard interception return for a touchdown and a forced fumble as the Sun Devils knocked off in-state rival Arizona 58-21 in the Territorial Cup on Saturday night. Both forced turnovers led to scores that extended the Sun Devils lead and put the game out of reach. Randall also notched a game-high 12 tackles, including a four-yard tackle for loss, as Arizona State secured the best record in league play and hosting duties for the Pac-12 Football Championship Game on Saturday, Dec. 7.
Gonzalez, a freshman from Deer Park, Texas, accounted for 16 points as he connected on all 10 of his kicks, including 3-of-3 on field goals and 7-of-7 on extra points, helping Arizona State claim the Territorial Cup in the victory over Arizona on Saturday. He has now made a school-record 18 consecutive field goals dating back to the USC game on Sept. 28 and has made 22 of 25 on the year. His 124 total points are the most in a single-season by an ASU kicker, while his 10.4 points per game is good for eighth in the nation. Gonzalez is the only player to earn the special teams player of the week honor twice in 2013.
Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors were running backs D.J. Foster of Arizona State, Tyler Gaffney of Stanford, Kelvin York of Utah and Bishop Sankey of Washington; and quarterback Brett Hundley of UCLA. Also nominated for defensive player of the week honors were linebackers Addison Gilliam of Colorado, Anthony Barr of UCLA and Trevor Reilly of Utah; cornerbacks Ifo Ekpre-Olomu of Oregon and Wayne Lyons of Stanford; and defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha of Washington. Also nominated for special teams player of the week honors was UCLA punter Sean Covington and Utah punter Tom Hackett.
Huff caught a career-high nine passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns in the Ducks' 36-35, come-from-behind victory over Oregon State. Every time the Beavers took the lead, Huff was there to put the Ducks back ahead.
His first touchdown, a 28-yard pass from Marcus Mariota, came in the third quarter with the Ducks trailing 20-17. His second was a 12-yard connection in the fourth quarter with Oregon State leading 29-24. And the clincher was a 12-yarder with 29 seconds left in the game to give Oregon the final margin.
“That guy is a warrior,” Mariota said. “He has been making plays like that for his whole career. I have all the confidence in the world in that guy. He made play after big play."
Huff’s 186-yard performance was the 10th-best single-game total in Oregon history. The victory gives Oregon a sixth consecutive 10-win season.
Said Huff of his game-winning reception: "It was something that I dreamed of as a little kid. All my teammates were pushing me on and they told me to dig deep. They needed me and Marcus was able to find me in the end zone.
"I have no idea how I feel. I am happy, I can tell you that. It is surreal. I didn't imagine my last game would come down like that. It is everything I dreamed of as a little kid. My dream finally came true. To leave on that note is pretty amazing."
UCLA's Myles Jack earned freshman of the year for both offense and defense with his 70 tackles as a linebacker and seven touchdowns as a running back. This is the first time since the awards were introduced in 2008 that the same player has won both sides.
Arizona State coach Todd Graham is the league's coach of the year for guiding the Sun Devils to a conference record of 8-1 and winning the South Division. The Sun Devils host Stanford this weekend in the Pac-12 championship game.
The team is selected by the Pac-12 head coaches.
Offensive player of the year: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year: Will Sutton, DE Arizona State
Freshman Offense and Defensive Player of the Year: Myles Jack, RB/LB, UCLA
Coach of the Year: Todd Graham, Arizona State
First team offense
QB Marcus Mariota, So., Oregon (2)
RB Ka'Deem Carey, Jr., Arizona (2)
RB Bishop Sankey, Jr., Washington
WR Brandin Cooks, Jr., Oregon State
WR Paul Richardson, Jr., Colorado
TE Chris Coyle, Grad., Arizona State
OL Evan Finkenberg, Grad., Arizona State
OL Hroniss Grasu, Jr., Oregon (2)
OL Marcus Martin, Jr., USC
OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, Jr., UCLA (2)
OL David Yankey, Sr, Stanford (2)
First team defense
DL Ben Gardner, Sr., Stanford
DL Trevor Reilly, Sr., Utah
DL Will Sutton, Sr., Arizona State
DL Leonard Williams, So., USC
LB Anthony Barr, Sr., UCLA (2)
LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford (2)
LB Shayne Skov, Sr., Stanford
DB Deone Bucannon, Sr., Washington State
DB Alden Darby, Sr., Arizona State
DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jr., Oregon
DB Robert Nelson, Sr., Arizona State
DB Ed Reynolds, Sr., Stanford (2)
First team specialists
PK Zane Gonzalez, Fr., Arizona State
P Tom Hackett, So. Utah
RS Ty Montgomery, Jr., Stanford
ST Soma Vainuku, So. USC
Second team offense
QB Taylor Kelly, Jr., Arizona State
RB Tyler Gaffney, Sr., Stanford
RB Marion Grice, Sr. Arizona State
WR Ty Montgomery, Jr., Stanford
WR Jaelen Strong, So., Arizona State
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jr., Washington
OL Jamil Douglas, Jr., Arizona State
OL Cameron Fleming, Sr., Stanford
OL Andrus Peat, So., Stanford
OL Isaac Seumalo, So., Oregon State
OL Khalil Wilkes, Sr. Stanford
Second team defense
DL Scott Crichton, Jr., Oregon State
DL Taylor Hart, Sr., Oregon
DL Devon Kennard, Sr., USC
DL Hau'oli Kikaha, Jr., Washington
DL Tenny Palepoi, Sr., Utah
LB Carl Bradford, Jr., Arizona State
LB Myles Jack, Fr., UCLA
LB Hayes Pullard, Jr., USC
LB Chris Young, Sr., Arizona State
DB Dion Bailey, Jr., USC
DB Osahon Irabor, Grad., Arizona State
DB Marcus Peters, So., Washington
DB Rashaad Reynolds, Sr., Oregon State
Second team specialists
PK Vincenzo D'Amato, Sr., California
P Travis Coons, Sr., Washington
RS Nelson Agholor, So., USC
ST Erick Dargan, Jr., Oregon
ST Joe Hemschoot, Sr., Stanford
ST Ryan Hofmeister, Jr., UCLA
RS: Return Specialist
ST: special teams player (not a kicker or returner)
(2): Two-time first-team selection
Arizona: LB Marquis Flowers, Sr.; DL Tevin Hood, Sr.; WR Nate Phillips, Fr.; DB Jared Tevis, Jr.; LB Scooby Wright, Fr.
Arizona State: DL Davon Coleman, Grad.; Gannon Conway, Sr.; ST D.J. Foster, So.; ST De'Marieya Nelson, Jr.
California: DL Deandre Coleman, Sr.; QB Jared Goff, Fr.; WR Bryce Treggs, So.
Colorado: RB Mike Adkins, Fr.; LB Addison Gillam, Fr.; PK Will Oliver, Jr.
Oregon: WR/RS Bralon Addison, So.; WR Josh Huff, Sr.; OL Tyler Johnstone, So.; DL Wade Keliikipi, Sr.; LB Derrick Malone, Jr.; RB Byron Marshall, So.; DL Tony Washington, Jr.
Oregon State: OL Grant Enger, Sr.; TE Connor Hamlett, JR.; QB Sean Mannion, Jr.; DB Ryan Murphy, Jr.; DB Steven Nelson, Jr.; ST Terron Ward, Jr.
Stanford: DL Henry Anderson, Sr.; DB Alex Carter, So.; OL Kevin Danser, Sr.; DL Josh Mauro, Sr.; P Ben Rhyne, Sr.; DB Jordan Richards, Jr.; LB A.J. Tarpley, Sr.
UCLA: OL Jake Brendel, So.; ST Jayon Brown, Fr.; P Sean Covington, Fr.; TE Thomas Duarte, Fr.; WR Shaq Evans, Sr.; WR Devin Fuller, So.; DB Randall Goforth, So.; QB Brett Hundley, So.; DB Anthony Jefferson, Jr.; LB Eric Kendricks, Jr.; DL Cassius Marsh, Sr.; DL Ellis McCarthy, So.; DB Fabian Moreau, So.; OL Alex Redmond, Fr.; DL Eddie Vanderdoes, Fr.; LB Jordan Zumwalt, Sr.
USC: P Kris Albarado, So.; RB Javorius Allen, So.; WR Nelson Agholor, So.; DB Su'a Cravens, Fr.; OL Kevin Graf, Sr.; TE Xavier Grimble, Jr.; QB Cody Kessler, So.; WR Marqise Lee, Jr.; DB Josh Shaw, Jr.; DL J.R. Tavai, Jr.; OL Max Turek, So.; DL George Uko, Jr.
Utah: WR Dres Anderson, Jr.; OL Vyncent Jones, Sr.; DB Keith McGill, Sr.; PK Andy Phillips, Fr.; LB Jason Whittingham, So.
Washington: OL Dexter Charles, So.; PK Travis Coons, Sr.; OL Mike Criste, Jr.; OL Micah Hatchie, Jr.; DB Sean Parker, Sr.; QB Keith Price, Sr.; DL Danny Shelton, Jr.; LB Shaq Thompson, So.
Washington State: OL Elliott Bosch, Sr.; WR River Cracraft, Fr.; PK Andrew Furney, Sr.; DB Damante Horton, Sr.;
Some notes on the teams:
By School: Arizona State and Stanford placed the most players on the first team with six selections each.
By Class: Of the 27 first-team selections, two are graduate students, 11 are seniors, nine are juniors, four are sophomores and one freshman.
Unanimous: Only one player was named on the first-team ballot of all 12 head coaches -- RB Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona.
Two-time Selections: Ten players are repeat first-team selections from last year.
All-Academic: Two first team All-Pac-12 performers also were named to the Pac-12 All Academic second team -- RB Bishop Sankey of Washington and DB Ed Reynolds of Stanford, while Washington defensive lineman Hau'oli Kikaha was named to the All-Pac-12 second team and Pac-12 All-Academic first team. Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly earned second-team honors on both the Pac-12 All-Conference and All-Academic teams.
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If misery loves company, the Civil War might be more civil this season. At least, Oregon and Oregon State -- fans, coaches and players -- can commiserate with each other on what horrible losses and disappointing season downturns feel like.
The Ducks and Beavers arrive at their annual showdown with their mid-season swagger replaced by a limp. The Ducks, eyeballing the national title game much of the year, have lost two of three and now must contemplate their first BCS bowl-less season since 2008. The Beavers, 6-1 a month ago, had bounced back from an opening loss to Eastern Washington to regain a national ranking, but they are now riding a four-game losing streak that was capped by a miserable white flag performance against Washington.
The Ducks were blown out last weekend 42-16 by an Arizona team that had lost at home the previous week to Washington State. The Beavers gave up 692 yards -- 530 yards rushing! -- in a humiliating 69-27 home loss to the Huskies.
What went wrong for the Beavers? "What didn't?" replied coach Mike Riley.
"I would have to say that was as out of character as I've seen us play ever," Riley said. "I shouldn't say I'm at a loss, but we just have to coach better and play better."
Oregon also seemed to lose its poise last week. First, De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff caused a stir midweek by saying they weren't excited about playing in the Rose Bowl. That inspired national chortling about karma when the Ducks face-planted, thereby eliminating themselves from consideration from the slighted Granddaddy.
The loss also created some tension for first-year coach Mark Helfrich when the inevitable, "That wouldn't have happened to a Chip Kelly coached team," was broached by a fan base that hadn't suffered through a loss to an unranked team since 2009, Kelly's first season. Helfrich made no excuse for the Ducks’ woeful performance.
"We certainly didn't play up to our normal standard and like I said on game day that starts and ends with me," Helfrich said.
So what of the Civil War? Oregon is a three-touchdown favorite, but the real question is do both teams show up with something resembling their A-game? Or does just one?
"The team that handles wherever they are right now the best has the best chance to look good and play well," Riley said. "Now these guys are really good, so we're going to have to be so drastically different than we were last Saturday night. Can we do that is our issue?"
The Beavers’ biggest problem is obvious: They can't run the ball. They rank 120th in the nation with 72.8 yards rushing per game. Once they hit the second half of a backloaded schedule, opposing defenses were able to scheme up the previously potent passing game, and that has led to an offensive regression, particularly for QB Sean Mannion. He threw just three interceptions in the first eight games. He's thrown 10 in the past three.
Riley, however, brushed off talk that Mannion's confidence has taken a major hit.
"I get the question, but he's actually good," Riley said.
If Mannion starts slowly against the Ducks, it would be reasonable to wonder if Riley might turn to back senior Cody Vaz, who started five games in 2012 but was beaten out in the preseason by Mannion, a junior.
The Ducks’ quarterback, Marcus Mariota, hasn't slipped as steeply as Mannion, but he's proven fallible after becoming a leading Heisman Trophy contender through the first eight games. For one, he threw his first two interceptions of the year against Arizona, though the first wasn't his fault by any stretch. Second, he's beaten up, starting with a knee spring suffered against UCLA four weeks ago. He also appeared to get his bell rung late in the loss to Arizona, but he told reporters this week he has passed all concussion tests and will start against the Beavers.
Mariota is the least of the Ducks’ problems. Uncharacteristic offensive sloppiness and a flagging defense have been the larger issues. And, not unlike the Beavers last week against Washington, the focus and effort didn't seem very Oregon-like against Arizona.
"We did a little bit of introspection following the game, talked through that," Helfrich said. "Talked about exactly what we have to do to fix that. I think our guys responded well these last couple of days."
Both teams are headed to the postseason, so this won't be their final game. Yet both coaches know how their team performs in this game will be carried by their fans into the offseason, either as a representation of resilience or a red flag suggesting sagging morale.
Both coaches are counting on a bounce-back performance, one that means the game will reward the better team, not the one that can muster the least indifference.
"They flushed it well," Helfrich said. "The last couple of days have been very spirited, very physical practices. They are ready to get back at it."
From Oregon QB Bill Musgrave in 1987, to Oregon State QB Terrance Bryant in 1998, through the Beavers' big win in 2000, and the Ducks' triumph in 2010, each photo surely will spark memories, both pleasant and unpleasant.
It's worth checking out.
Both head coaches -- Helfrich and Oregon State's Mike Riley -- grew up in the state and rooted for the teams they now lead. And as much as each would like to continue to preach the it's-just-another-game mentality, their deep understanding of what's at stake on several levels can make it a little tougher this week.
"I grew up in a community (Coos Bay) that was very divided in allegiance and I know what that means," said Helfrich, who declined the opportunity to walk on at both schools. "I was an Oregon fan and certainly there was that back and forth amongst the community that will happen after this game … and you wanted to be on the right side of that for sure."
He moved to Corvallis as an 11-year-old in 1965 when his father, Bud Riley, began an eight-year stint as an assistant coach with the Beavers. Mike never saw an Oregon State loss in the Civil War before he graduated high school and left to play defensive back for Bear Bryant at Alabama in 1971.
Like father, not like son.
Riley's record in his two stints as Oregon State's head coach is 4-8, and the Ducks have won the last five meetings.
"For everyone, the seniors probably especially --- they haven't beat the Ducks -- you could go through reason for reason why this would be a great win," Riley said.
A month ago, this Friday's game had potential to be one of the most anticipated Civil Wars in history. At the end of October, the rivals' combined record was 14-1, and Oregon looked well on its way to showdown with Riley's alma mater in the BCS National Championship.
How quickly things change.
Oregon State (6-5 overall, 4-4 Pac-12) has dropped four straight, including last week's 69-27 debacle against Washington, and the Ducks (9-2, 6-2) are out of the BCS bowl picture altogether thanks to losses at Stanford and Arizona in the last three weeks.
"Our guys are disappointed, they're frustrated," Helfrich said, "but at the same time they have the right type of mindset for bouncing back."
That includes quarterback Marcus Mariota, who could potentially be playing in his final game at Autzen Stadium. After two standout seasons in Eugene, the redshirt sophomore would likely be turning down the opportunity to be a first-round pick if he decided to come back for his junior season.
Mariota said he hasn't put any though into the looming decision.
"Not at all and I'm being truthfully honest," he said. "I'm going to take after the bowl season … I'll go home and talk through this with my family and see what's the best fit for my family."
Less talk has been made about the potential for Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion to make the leap to the NFL, but the nation's passing-yardage leader (4,089) is set to graduate in a few weeks and will also field next-level interest when he leaves the Beavers.
Washington State (6-5, 4-4) at Washington (7-4, 4-4) 3:30 p.m. Fox: Washington leads the series 67-32-6 and is 38-15-5 in games played in Seattle. The Cougars have lost 10 of the last 15 Apple Cups, but they prevailed last year 31-28 in overtime, overcoming an 18-point Huskies fourth-quarter lead. Only since 1962 has the winner been awarded the Apple Cup trophy. The winner was awarded the Governor’s Trophy from 1934 to 1961. Washington RB Bishop Sankey enters the week as the nation’s No. 4 rusher with 143.2 yards per game. His 17 rushing TDs ranks sixth in the nation, and his 34 career TDs tied him with Napoleon Kaufman for the UW record. He needs 121 yards to eclipse Corey Dillon's single season rushing record of 1,695. After losing three in a row, the Cougars beat Arizona and Utah, thereby becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2006. They haven't been picked for a bowl game since 2003. They won at Arizona with defense, holding the Wildcats to just 17 points, and beat the Utes with offense, scoring 49 against a defense that entered the game yielding 27 points per game. The big question for Washington is whether senior QB Keith Price will get the start. A shoulder injury last week forced Cyler Miles into action. The Huskies rushed for 530 yards last week against Oregon State.
Oregon State (6-5, 4-4) at No. 13 Oregon (9-2, 6-2) 7 p.m. Fox Sports 1: Oregon leads the series 60-46-10 and has won the last five meetings. Both teams limp into the matchup. After an 8-0 start and rising to No. 2 in the BCS standings, the Ducks have lost two of three, including a shocking 42-16 blowout loss at Arizona. The Beavers started 6-1 but have lost four in a row, including a 69-27 loss last weekend at home to Washington, a game the Huskies led 48-zip after three quarters. Oregon State gave up 692 total yards, including 530 rushing yards to the Huskies. Oregon enters the game leading the Pac-12 in scoring (47.7 ppg), total offense (573.5 ypg) and rushing offense (277.9 ypg). QB Marcus Mariota ranks second in the nation in ESPN.com's Stats & Information's Total QBR rating. Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks ranks first in the nation in receiving yards per game with 141.8 yards per game. His 15 TD receptions is five more than any other Pac-12 receiver.
Colorado (4-7, 1-7) at Utah (4-7, 1-7) 2 p.m. Pac-12 Network: Colorado leads the series 31-25-3, and this is both teams’ longest series against any Pac-12 team. They played annually from 1903-62 with four exceptions, but then the rivalry went dormant for 49 years before it resumed in 2011 as Pac-12 members. Last season, Utah’s 42-35 win in Boulder was its first over the Buffs since 1962. That game was a back and forth affair that was iced by Utah's Reggie Dunn producing his fifth 100-yard kickoff return of his career (an NCAA record) for the winning TD. John White rushed for 168 yards, and Utah’s four interceptions matched its season total entering the game. In this week’s NCAA rankings, Utah has the fifth-toughest schedule in the country (down from No. 2 a week ago). Utah’s schedule has been rated among the nation’s toughest all season. The combined FBS record of Utah’s opponents is 64-30 and all of its first 11 FBS opponents are bowl eligible.
No. 25 Notre Dame (8-3) at No. 8 Stanford (9-2) 7 p.m. Fox: Notre Dame leads the series 18-9 but Stanford has won three of the last four. The Fighting Irish won last year 20-13 in overtime in South Bend in controversial fashion. It appeared Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor scored twice near the goal line, but officials ruled he didn't, the second time being upheld after a replay. Notre Dame is trying to sweep the Pac-12. It previously beat Arizona State and USC. A win over Stanford, in fact, would give the Irish wins over the conference's North and South division champions. A year after going undefeated in the regular season, Notre Dame has lost to Michigan, Oklahoma and Pittsburgh. Stanford leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense, giving up 18.9 points per game. Notre Dame yields 22.5 ppg, which ranks 35th in the nation.
No. 22 UCLA (8-3, 5-3) at No. 23 USC (9-3, 5-3) 8 p.m. ABC: USC leads the series 46-29-7 and has won 12 of the last 14 games. But the Bruins triumphed 38-28 last year, snapping a five-game losing streak. UCLA last beat USC in the Coliseum in 1997. A Trojans victory would give USC its second 10-win season in the past three years and its 25th overall. UCLA head coach Jim Mora’s parents attended USC. The Trojans are 6-1 under interim head coach Ed Orgeron, a semifinalist for national coach of the year. UCLA has given up 32 sacks this year, second most in the conference. USC has 33 sacks, fourth most in the conference. USC QB Cody Kessler has completed 73 percent of his passes in the last four games. USC RB Javorius Allen has 10 TDs and three 100-yard rushing performances in the last four games. UCLA QB Brett Hundley is second in the conference in passing efficiency. The Trojans are No. 2 in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (20.2 ppg) and No. 1 in total defense (336.6 ypg). UCLA OLB Anthony Barr is second in the Pac-12 with 17 tackles for a loss. His eight sacks are tied for third.
Arizona (7-4, 4-4) at No. 12 Arizona State (9-2, 7-1) 9:30 p.m. Pac-12 Network: Arizona leads the series 47-38-1. The Sun Devils won in Tucson last season, 41-34, overcoming a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. The visiting team has won eight of the last 13 matchups, including the last four. Seven of the last nine have been decided by a TD or less. The past four games have been decided by a total of 15 points. More than just bragging rights are on the line as a Sun Devils victory would force Stanford to come to Tempe for the Pac-12 title game on Dec. 7. Both teams are coming off big wins over high-ranked teams. ASU beat UCLA 38-33, which gave the Sun Devils the South division title, while Arizona took down No. 5 Oregon, 42-16. Arizona is yielding 21.6 points per game. Last year, the Wildcats gave up 35.6 points per game. Both teams are giving up 5.2 yards per play. The blitz-happy Sun Devils are second in the Pac-12 with 34 sacks. Arizona has surrendered just 14 sacks, second fewest in the conference.