It's Tyler Shough's show now. Presumably.
The No. 12 Oregon Ducks open the season at home against Stanford on Saturday with a new quarterback after record-breaker Justin Herbert graduated to the NFL.
Shough is embarking on his sophomore season after throwing for 144 yards and three touchdowns as Herbert's backup last season.
Still, Ducks coach Mario Cristobal stopped short this week of labeling Shough the definitive starter against the Cardinal. He was listed as an “or” on the depth chart with Boston College transfer Anthony Brown.
And yes, Cristobal all but admitted it was gamesmanship.
“When you’re playing Game 1, opening game of the season, there’s no value to a team giving up every detail of what they’re doing. Respectfully, just decline to give out information on who’s starting at certain positions because we’d rather let the opponent figure that out, quite honestly,” Cristobal said. "Some of that stuff you know already who’s playing or who’s serving in a backup role or reserve role but that’s going to be our philosophy with that up until Game 1.”
With Herbert at quarterback, the Ducks went 12-2 last season, capping it off with a 28-27 victory over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
Stanford struggled last season, going 4-8 overall and 3-6 in Pac-12 play and missing out on a bowl berth for the first time since 2008.
Stanford free safety Malik Antoine said whoever is under center for Oregon makes no difference to the Cardinal, who are anxious for a new chapter.
“It’s always hard to scout guys, so I wouldn’t put it as an advantage or disadvantage. For us, personally, as a defensive unit we’re just going to come out there and execute our defense regardless who we see out there.”
Quarterback Davis Mills isn't new to Stanford by any means, but he comes into this season as the No. 1 QB after K.J. Costello went to Mississippi State to play under former Washington State coach Mike Leach.
Mills started six games last season when Costello was dealing with injuries, and set a school record with 504 passing yards against the Cougars.
“Everyone’s ready to play," Mills said. "We’ve waited a long time for this. With all the stuff that happened this offseason it’s kind of bittersweet to finally get to this moment. I think everyone on the team’s prepared. We had a good last couple of weeks of practice.”
Without fans in attendance, Mills is optimistic about a far quieter Autzen Stadium helping the young Stanford players feel more comfortable going into a hostile environment.
“That is kind of a blessing going up there and just being able to communicate all of our calls, not really having to come up with those hand signals or silent cadences. Hopefully it will calm down a bunch of our young guys,” said Mills, who called Autzen's decibel level “crazy."
It's going to be a bit eerie for the Ducks.
“It’s just up to the players, you know, to bring our own energy, your own juice,” Oregon running back CJ Verdell said. “Fans definitely add the atmosphere to it, but at the end of the day we’re going there to go out there on the field and play football.”
MOMENT OF REFLECTION?
Cristobal was excited about opening the season but said he learned a bit about himself during the long layoff.
“When you have something like this and all of a sudden it just stops, it’s taken away — and for the right reasons, we’re all going through something in the country right now and we get it — but it’s very difficult because you just identify with it at this time of year. It consumes your entire existence and all of a sudden it helped me realize what a boring human being I actually am,” he joked.
Cristobal did not list any injuries or absences for the Ducks, but Stanford coach David Shaw said he expected three players to be out this weekend: linebackers Gabe Reid and Tangaloa Kaufusi and cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly. Thunder Keck would likely make his first career start replacing Reid after receiving a scholarship last week.
“He’s had an outstanding camp. He’s been a really good special teams player for us,” Shaw said, noting he will mix and match at the linebacker positions.
Stanford has won the last two meetings at Autzen, most recently, a wild come-from-behind overtime victory in 2018. Stanford rallied from a 24-7 halftime deficit to win 38-31. Oregon won last season’s meeting 21-6 in Palo Alto.
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in the San Francisco Bay Area contributed to this report.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25