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Pac-12 preview: Can the Ducks fly past Stanford in the North?

Published: Saturday, Aug. 2 2014 8:45 p.m. MDT

Updated: Sunday, Aug. 3 2014 12:01 a.m. MDT

Oregon's Marcus Mariota throws to prepare for the Valero Alamo Bowl NCAA college football game against Texas, Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, in San Antonio.

Eric Gay, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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Editor's note: This is the seventh and final segment in a series previewing the Pac-12 football season.

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Oregon coach Mark Helfrich doesn’t mind that his school is tabbed as the team to beat. The Ducks not only topped the preseason media poll as the choice to win the Pac-12 North Division, they’re also considered the favorites to prevail in the conference championship game.

“Obviously we’ve been asked a lot about the media poll that took place and that is a good thing,” Helfrich said. “It’s a good thing for the media and our fans and for everybody to talk about.”

Oregon was in a similar situation a year ago and things didn’t work out. The Ducks wound up dropping games at Stanford (26-20) and Arizona (42-16), finishing second to the eventual Pac-12 champion Cardinal in the division.

“Looking back to last year, it’s a great thing for our players to kind of slap ourselves in the face and go back to process, go back to culture,” Helfrich said.

Stanford coach David Shaw, meanwhile, isn’t worrying about the preseason predictions.

“All that stuff will bear itself out,” he said.

Pac-12 North

OREGON DUCKS: The Ducks are loaded once again. Junior Marcus Mariota is a candidate for every national quarterback award and runs the show for an explosive offense. On defense, senior linebacker Derrick Malone is back after leading the team with 105 tackles last season.

Question is, does Oregon have what it takes to make it to the new college football playoff system?

2013 record: 11-2, 7-2 (T-1st, North)

2014 Pac-12 media poll: 1st, North

Returning starters: 15 (9 offense, 5 defense, 1 kicker/punter)

Head coach (record): Mark Helfrich (11-2)

2014 schedule

Aug. 30 — SOUTH DAKOTA

Sept. 6 — MICHIGAN STATE

Sept. 13 — WYOMING

Sept. 20 — at Washington State

Oct. 2 — ARIZONA

Oct. 11 — at UCLA

Oct. 18 — WASHINGTON

Oct. 24 — at California

Nov. 1 — STANFORD

Nov. 8 — at Utah

Nov. 22 — COLORADO

Nov. 29 — at Oregon State

STANFORD CARDINAL: The defending Pac-12 champions still have a lot going for them.

“We’re talking about a veteran group that’s learned to play at a high level,” said Shaw, who is 34-6 at the helm.

Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan, senior receiver/return specialist Ty Montgomery and senior safety Jordan Richards are among the standouts.

2013 record: 11-3, 7-2 (T-1st, North)

2014 Pac-12 media poll: 2nd, North

Returning starters: 14 (5 offense, 7 defense, 2 kicker/punter)

Head coach (record): David Shaw (34-6)

2014 schedule

Aug. 30 — UC DAVIS

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