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Oregon Ducks Football: Why Oregon will win the Pac-12 in 2014

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This is the first part of two regarding Oregon's chances to win the conference

Steve Dykes

1) Marcus Mariota is back

This is something which cannot be understated. The Ducks return the best quarterback in the Pac-12 and with a healthy Mariota, Oregon will likely be favored in every game they play. De'Anthony Thomas still hasn't made his decision but I will make the assumption he is leaving. Having Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall in the backfield will likely provide one of the more dynamic one-two punches in the backfield.

2) Oregon's biggest conference games are at home

The game which is going to get top billing for the third straight season is Stanford. I'm not one to talk about revenge games and trying to create motivation where plenty is already supplied, but the Ducks need this game. The other big game at Autzen is when the Huskies come to town. Oregon needs to set the tone against Petersen's Dawgs. It's not unreasonable to imagine that one of the reasons he was brought to UW was his 2-0 record against the Ducks. If he snaps the Oregon embargo on the I5 rivalry in his first season, it could give Washington a lot of momentum in his first year at the helm.

3) Coaching has a year under their belt

From early on in the season, Mark Helfrich was commenting on how he didn't really know what to expect as a head coach and how different things were for him. Imagine how things felt for Scott Frost. Looking on the sunny side of things, Frost now knows what doesn't work and we will see if he learned anything from his first year as OC. If he hasn't he may find himself having to look in his closet for all of his old Nebraska apparel. Helfrich is going to put him thumb print on the team with the next DC hire and it will be interesting to see where things go from here.

4) Competition losing playmakers

Oregon isn't exempt from losing playmakers to the draft. With Ifo's decision still pending, Oregon is losing Terrance Mitchell, Josh Huff and De'Anthony Thomas. However, it seems Oregon still has players in the fold who will be taking over for them. Stanford is losing the heart and soul of their defense, losing Shane Skov, Trent Murphy and on offense Tyler Gaffney. Oregon State loses their best offensive threat in Brandin Cooks and also Scott Crichton. Washington is going to be without Keith Price, Austin Saferian-Jenkins and Bishop Sankey. The north is wide open in that respect and gives the Ducks a better chance to take the North.