And though Ducks’ fans may blow a gasket at the thought, it could be argued that Mariota isn’t the best quarterback in the state. Oregon State’s Sean Mannion is poised to break former USC quarterback Matt Barkley's Pac-12 career passing record.
Such is the level of quarterbacks keeping Pac-12 defensive coordinators up late at night. It was left to Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday to clear things up -- sort of -- during the conference's media day activities.
When asked who is the best quarterback in the Pac-12, Halliday said, “It depends on how you ask the question. Marcus is the most talented. But if you’re saying arm strength, it’s Sean, maybe me, maybe Hundley. We have six or seven guys in this conference who can play at the next level.”
But Halliday circled back.
“The most talented is Marcus,” he said.
Mariota went through the Heisman Trophy grinder last season. That effort, and the Ducks’ national-title hopes, were damaged when he suffered a partial tear to his medial collateral ligament against UCLA.
The injury, Mariota said, “didn’t change my mentality at all. My knee injury was not an excuse.”
Still, the Ducks lost to Stanford and Arizona. Mariota appeared limited in both games.
Most early oddsmakers have Mariota second in the Heisman race behind the 2013 winner, Jameis Winston.
Mariota, who waded through the Heisman chatter a year ago, shrugged.
“That means absolutely nothing,” he said. “For us, as athletes, it’s just outside talk. We just control what we can and play well. The Heisman is an awesome, incredible honor. At the same time, it is not up to us.”
Being named All-Pac-12 may be just as difficult as winning the Heisman.
The conference has been a quarterback breeding zone for ages, with Jim Plunkett, Dan Fouts, Troy Aikman being a few who developed out west. Washington’s Sonny Sixkiller even had a folk song written about him, albeit one only played in the Northwest.
This season could be argued to be one of the best, both in quality and quantity. Many teams are running pass-happy spread offenses.
“It’s unbelievable, 10 returning quarterbacks,” Mariota said. “That’s a statement in itself. It’s an awesome opportunity for this conference to showcase the talent we have.”