Marcus Mariota has been touted as the best quarterback in all of college football at the moment, and it’s hard to argue against that. Relatively unknown as a high schooler, Mariota has shown patience (almost to a fault), speed, and near-perfect decision making skills. For two years running, he has been a Heisman frontrunner during the year. For two years running, he has been considered the overwhelming favorite for #1 pick in the NFL Draft. However, Mariota’s Ducks, despite their dominance, have never been able to beat Stanford. These losses to Stanford have cost the Ducks their shots at the Pac-12 title, as well.
Mariota and the Ducks came out on a mission yesterday and defeated Stanford easily. For the first time in two years, the Ducks are the masters of their own destiny following their yearly contest with the Cardinal. The Ducks play Utah next week, followed by Colorado and Oregon State. Utah lost a competitive game against a slightly better Arizona State, Colorado is seemingly harmless but put up a fight against mid-tier teams in the Pac-12, and Oregon State is a rivalry game where anything could happen (but I think we know how that is going to play out). If Oregon simply takes care of business, they’ll cruise into the Pac-12 Championship Game. Who Oregon plays is definitely up in the air. Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Utah all have legitimate shots at the Pac-12 South crown.
Regardless of whoever they play in the championship game, The Mariota Era Ducks have gotten the monkey off their backs. Stanford had all but neutralized the world-class Ducks offense two years running and I would wager that every Duck fan considered the possibility of it happening again. Some of the best moments in sports were born from superstars and their teams overcoming a perennial nemesis, and a few teams that come to mind went on to do special things. The Patriots had Peyton Manning’s number his whole career until 2006. Indianapolis beat New England in the AFC Championship and went on to beat the Bears in the Super Bowl. The Boston Red Sox came back to beat the hated Yankees in the 2004 AL Championship Series and swept the Cardinals in the World Series, their first in 86 years. Joe Montana’s 49ers had always been the little brother to the Dallas Cowboys, but “The Catch” in 1981 propelled them to the Super Bowl and began one of the best stretches in all of sports.
I’m not trying to say that Mariota and the Ducks are on par with Peyton, Joe, or the ’04 Red Sox. Those teams were truly special. I am pointing out that some very special things have happened after the weight is lifted off a team’s shoulders. And while Mariota and the guys would never admit it, I bet there were a few sighs of relief after that game hit 0:00.