Marcus Mariota

Marcus Mariota | (Gary Breedlove/Eugene Daily News)

Now that the BCS National Championship Game is over, as well as the Bowl Championship Series- as we look ahead to 2014 there are some key players that will be returning to school rather than heading to the 2014 NFL Draft. Last month Oregon Quarterback Marcus Mariota and Center Hroniss Grasu announced they were returning to the Ducks.

Over the weekend two more potential Draft picks announced their intent to stay in school, including UCLA Quarterback Brett Hundley and Oregon State Signal Caller Sean Mannion. What does it mean for the upcoming season? For the Bruins it makes them the contender in the Pac 12 South from the start. To begin the year Jim Mora’s team faces Virginia on the road, followed by Memphis and a trip to Arlington to take on the Texas Longhorns and new head coach Charlie Strong.

Sean Mannion

Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion drops back to pass in the Beavers’ 31-14 loss to the USC Trojans at Reser Stadium in Corvallis | (Don Ryan/AP Photo)

Mannion and the Beavers host Portland State, visit Hawaii and host San Diego State, which with the way they ended 2013 should be quite a game. The Pac 12 piece of the 2014 schedule will be released sometime in the next week. We already know that there will be a Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State. We can hope that both QB’s are healthy at the end of the season, although everyone knows there is always something to play for in that game.

If I did my addition correctly there are now 232 days till the return of College Football and when it does come back it will not be for a BCS Championship, it will be for a Playoff. Regardless of who you are playing there is something to play for. Finish the season in the Top 4 and your season continues after the regular season. Of course, plenty can happen between now and then. Schedules are not set in stone, as we saw a few years ago when Oregon State headed to State College, Pennsylvania to meet Penn State. The Ducks also have some questions to resolve. Mainly, who will be the new Defensive Coordinator?

Now that we know who is staying and who is leaving for the NFL it is time to take some time to reflect on the season. Oregon finished 11-2 and wrapped up their fourth season in a row of being ranked in the Top 10 of the Associated Press Poll(9). For the record they were the highest finishing Pac 12 team. Stanford, who lost to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl, ended the season ranked 11th in the AP poll with an 11-3 record. Does that mean when the Preseason Poll comes out for the upcoming season that the Ducks will be ranked higher than the Cardinal? Where will Michigan State be? Could the matchup on September 13th 2014 at Autzen Stadium be an early matchup of Top 5 teams? All great questions. Now we just have to sit back and wait.

With players returning teams can now put their Ducks in a row so to speak. It is time to hit the recruiting trail as February 5th is getting bigger on the calendar. We wish the departing players well and welcome in the next class of athletes. For many of us August cannot get here soon enough as we start the whole thing over again.