There are lingering questions about how much the mysterious knee injury contributed to the Ducks' 26-20 loss at Stanford last Thursday. Oregon (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) doesn't discuss injuries, and the sophomore quarterback hasn't been specific about what's going on.
Asked this week whether his knee is an issue, Mariota replied: "Not at all." Pressed whether he is 100 percent, he said: "That's something that I can't tell you."
Mariota remains a Heisman Trophy hopeful with a stellar season thus far. He's completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 22 touchdowns with no interceptions, and he's second on the team with 495 yards rushing and nine additional TDs.
He has gone 327 attempts without an interception, an ongoing Pac-12 record that dates to last year.
But against the Cardinal, it became apparent that Mariota's mobility was hampered. He passed for 250 yards and two TDs. Three of his six rushes were sacks, putting him in negative yardage on the ground.
"My knee is what it is. I'm not going to use that as an excuse," he said.
Mariota is believed to have injured his knee in a 42-14 victory over then-No. 12 UCLA on Oct. 26, and he played the second half with a brace. He wore a brace throughout the game at Stanford.
He was practicing this week with the first team, again wearing a brace. Backup Jeff Lockie worked out with the second team.
Mariota said, "Yes, for sure," when asked whether he'd play against the Utes (4-5, 1-5).
The loss to Stanford dropped Oregon from No. 2 in the AP rankings and all but ended its bid for a spot in the BCS championship game. It was much the same last season when Stanford defeated Oregon 17-14 at Autzen Stadium, effectively shutting the door on both a title game bid and the Pac-12 championship for the Ducks.
Oregon will need to win its remaining games and hope the fifth-ranked Cardinal drop one of their final two conference contests to get back in control of hosting the Pac-12 championship. Stanford visits Southern California on Saturday before hosting rival California, then finishes with an out-of-conference matchup against Notre Dame.
After Utah, the Ducks travel to Arizona and end the season by hosting rival Oregon State in the annual Civil War game. Should the Ducks win out, they'll likely earn a trip to the Fiesta or Orange Bowl.
"Our guys believe 100 percent in our process," coach Mark Helfrich said. "We got beat by a very good team. You look at what you did well and you look at what you didn't do well, and you try, obviously, to do more of the former than the latter. And move on."
Utah's lone Pac-12 victory this season was 27-21 over Stanford on Oct. 12, and it looked like it was on the verge of upsetting another ranked team last Saturday.
The Utes led then-No. 23 Arizona State by 12 points heading into the fourth quarter, but the Sun Devils scored with 2:37 remaining to pull out a 20-19 victory and hand Utah a third straight loss.
Utah, which had won 49 consecutive games when leading at halftime, was also tied with UCLA in the fourth quarter of a 34-27 loss Oct. 3.
"That's the second or third game we've let go in the fourth quarter," defensive end Trevor Reilly said. "We need to remember our technique in the fourth quarter.
"To be one quarter away from beating another Top 25 team at home and be one win away from a bowl game and to lose like that was hard. It was ours to lose and we just lost."
These teams have never met as members of the Pac-12, and Oregon leads the all-time series 18-8. The Ducks beat the visiting Utes 31-24 in the last matchup in 2009.