BERKELEY, Calif. -- Oregon struggled for a while against injury-plagued and slumping Cal on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium, but quarterback Marcus Mariota made certain the Ducks would not suffer the same fate as Alabama.
Mariota tied a school record with six touchdown passes, including four in the second half, as the third-ranked Ducks pulled away for a 59-17 victory that presumably will lift them to the No. 1 ranking in the polls for the first time this season.
Whether it was enough to earn Oregon the top spot in the BCS standings remains to be seen. However, with Alabama's loss earlier in the day, Oregon (10-0, 7-0 Pac-12) now seems virtually assured of a berth in the national championship game if it wins its remaining games, starting with next week's home game against No. 15 Stanford.
The Bears had no answer for Mariota, who was 27-for-34 for a career-high 377 yards with no interceptions. He had to leave the game briefly in the second quarter when he landed on his left arm or shoulder on a run, but he returned later in the period and showed no ill effects.
Cal, playing without starting quarterback Zach Maynard and its best player, wide receiver Keenan Allen, was still in the game midway through the third quarter. The Bears (3-8, 2-6) trailed just 24-17 and were moving the ball consistently well behind Maynard's replacement, Allan Bridgford.
Cal, which lost its fourth game in a row, pulled within seven points of Oregon in the third quarter on a 74-yard touchdown drive. Isi Sofele, who finished with 134 yards rushing, had 56 yards on the drive, including a 31-yard gain and a 4-yard touchdown run.
But the game turned when Oregon's Boseko Lokombo intercepted a pass from Bridgford at the Cal 35-yard line. On the next play, Mariota threw a touchdown pass to Josh Huff to make it 31-17 midway in the third quarter.
Mariota tossed a 39-yard pass to Huff to make its 38-17 later in the third quarter, and that put the game out of reach.
Oregon opened a 24-10 halftime lead thanks to a late touchdown drive.
The Ducks held a tenuous seven-point advantage when they took over at their own 31-yard line with 2:02 left in the first half. They went 69 yards, nearly all though the air, before scoring on Josh Huff's 10-yard touchdown reception with 44 seconds left.
The drive was also important because Mariota, who had to leave the game earlier in the quarter with an injured left arm or shoulder, returned for this possession and led the scoring drive.
He finished the half 16-for-21 for 222 yards and two scores.
Kenjon Barner, who also left the game briefly with a hand injury, was limited to 25 rushing yards in the first half.
Cal's Bridgford was 7-for-12 for 87 yards at halftime.
Oregon scored the first time it got the ball, going 57 yards for a touchdown. Mariota completed all four of his passes on the drive, including a 10-yarder to Colt Lyera for the score.
Cal tied it less than three minutes later on a 70-yard drive aided by pass-interference penalties on consecutive plays. Freshman Darius Powe caught a 10-yard pass from Bridgford for the score that made it 7-7.
Oregon took a 14-7 lead on an 86-yard scoring drive that include a 24-yard reception by Will Murphy. Byron Marshall's 3-yard run put the Ducks back on top.
Cal made it 14-10 on a 27-yard field goal by Vincenzo D'Amato early in the second quarter, but the Bears failed to get into the end zone after having a second down at the Oregon 5-yard line.
Alejandro Maldonado made it 17-10 with a 26-yard field goal, but four plays earlier, Marioto was hurt when he hit the ground on a run and had to leave the game.
NOTES: Oregon safety Avery Patterson had to leave the game in the first half with a leg injury. ... Oregon's 12-game winning streak heading into Saturday's action was the longest in school history and the second-longest active streak in the country. Alabama held the longest winning streak at 13 in a row, but the Crimson Tide lost to Texas A&M on Saturday. ... Entering Saturday, the Ducks had scored 42 points or more in 12 straight games and 30 or more in 22 straight, tying the NCAA record. ... Saturday's game provided a psychological challenge for Oregon. The Ducks were coming off an emotional victory over USC, and they must face nationally ranked Stanford and Oregon State in their final two regular-season games. Facing Cal in the midst of that, especially with the Bears being without their starting quarterback, could have made it difficult for the Ducks to be at a peak mentally. ... Bridgford made his second career start Saturday. He started the season opener because Maynard had missed a tutoring session during the summer and was held out of the starting lineup for the first game. Bridgford came into Saturday's game having completed just four of 16 passes for the season. ... Allen, Cal's all-time leader in receptions, sat out his second consecutive game with a knee injury. He is unlikely to play in the regular-season finale.