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Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) passes as Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov (11) defends during the first quarter of of an NCAA college football game in Stanford, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Pac-12 football: Mariota taking it easy, but getting degree
Pac-12 » Oregon QB’s “challenging” course work includes golf and yoga.
First Published Jul 25 2014 04:53 pm • Last Updated Jul 26 2014 10:04 pm

At the very start of Pac-12 media day, commissioner Larry Scott wanted to tell a story he felt would show just how important scholarships are.

College athletics are working "exceedingly well," Scott said. As an example, he showed a Pac-12 Network-produced profile of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota on passing up a chance to go to the NFL to return to school and get his degree in general science.

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"We believe that encouraging our student-athletes to tackle challenging majors such as Marcus is in, even with the demands made on their time by their sports, is critical," Scott said.

So what challenging classes are on the junior Heisman contender’s plate?

Golf. And Yoga.

So maybe Mariota’s schedule isn’t quite as stacked as the Pac-12 Network’s profile suggests, with a shot of Mariota suggesting "you can make a difference with what you’re able to learn."

In interviews, Mariota said getting his degree was the No. 1 priority that factored into his decision to return. But he’s also getting experiences that he might have otherwise missed while he was busy with bioscience classes and football. He mentioned going to a rodeo in Eugene as one of his summer highlights.

"[I wanted to] Enjoy college," he said. "Go out there and experience things I’ve never experienced. … There’s a couple things I’ve never thought about doing, and now I have an opportunity to do that."

Stanford’s offense remains unique

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On one hand, the Pac-12 does have plenty of great quarterbacks — a popular talking point during the conference media days.

On the other, Washington State linebacker Darryl Monroe said, there’s a lot of similar offenses around the league: The spread truly dominates.

"Yeah, like Oregon has a similar offense to ours," he thought. "I mean, thinking off the top of my head, the only offenses that are really that unique are Stanford and … yeah, Stanford."

The talk of media days centered around the power offenses that are coming back and the rising point totals, but Stanford’s old-school style of smashmouth ball is intact, at least as long as David Shaw is around. Numerous defenders around the league mentioned that the Cardinal offense is one of those units that really requires a one-of-a-kind game plan.

Though Kevin Hogan is one of the 10 returning Pac-12 starters at quarterback, he’s considered by most observers to more of a manager than a do-it-all weapon. Stanford will lean on a number of their running backs: Shaw said the Cardinal could play as many as four guys regularly, including one Barry J. Sanders, whose name might ring a bell.

"I think every running back we have has a unique ability," Shaw said. "If we have a group of guys that can all help us win a football game, I want to play them all and let them have that opportunity to help us win."

Scott open to BYU in scheduling

The ACC and SEC took very public stands this spring, saying that BYU wasn’t considered a "Power 5" foe that would satisfy an NCAA scheduling requirement going into effect in 2017.

Yet the Cougars haven’t had much problem scheduling games against Pac-12 opponents: Cal, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Stanford are all scheduled to play BYU on future dates. The Utes and Cougars are pushing to resume the Holy War rivalry in the next few years.

While Scott said there’s no plans to open the doors for BYU to join the league, the Pac-12 is happy to allow its schools to schedule the Cougars as a relatively consistent, regional opponent.

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