At roughly 7:30 Pacific Saturday night two undefeated and ranked programs will kickoff in what could be a sequel to last weeks Stanford Cardinal versus USC Trojans showdown. The similarities between both games is self-evident.
A top five team facing its biggest early season test against a fellow top 25. Last week the Cardinal were ranked 21 going in, and the Trojans were two.
When the Ducks and Wildcats kickoff in Autzen Stadium, it will be a three versus 22 contest.
Led by head coach Rich Rodriguez, the Cats have several qualities that the folks in Eugene might want to pay attention to. While I picked the Ducks to win this weekend, several factors are pointing in Arizona’s direction.
Both programs have something to prove.
Chip Kelly’s squad has feasted on lesser opponents. Fresno State is a respectable win no doubt, but Tennessee Tech and Arkansas State will not garner any street cred. Freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota has stepped into his role with the demeanor of a veteran signal-caller. Recent play aside, the young QB has had national aspirations thrust onto his shoulders, which is a lot to ask.
Oregon’s offense has averaged 54 points a game; par for the course. Vegas has the Ducks at 23 and a half point favorites against Rodriguez’s squad. Playing in Autzen Stadium (aka “The Zoo”) is a lofty mountain to climb. A recent Rant Sports poll put the stadium as the 4th most diffuclt road test in the country.
Here’s how the Cats can pull off a shocker:
There is one stat (aside from the score) that can determine the winner. Turnovers. If the Cats can force turnovers as they did during the Oklahoma State win, they have a chance. Arizona was plus four against the Cowboys with three picks and a fumble. Just like OSU, Oregon has a starting a freshman QB who could be forced into making mistakes.
Rodriguez implements an odd 3-3-5 defensive stack. The look is unique even for college football. While the formation is weak against a power run game, it is favorable when paired opposite a spread attack built on speed– exactly the type of set the Ducks use.
Between both schools, only Arizona has been tested to win differently. The Wildcats opened up 2012 against a good Toledo team that took them into overtime in a low scoring ugly win. Against OSU, the Cats were forced into a shootout further testing their offensive capabilities. Which brings me to my next point.
These Cats can score. Senior quarterback Matt Scott is a perfect fit for Rodriguez’s spread option attack. So good that in his first game with the new coach, UA racked up the second most yards in school history.
So far, Scott is averaging 331 yards passing and 63.3 rushing. Running back Ka’Deem Carey completes the double-headed monster in the Wildcat backfield. In three games the sophomore has averaged 114.6 yards on the ground. Carey has big play ability with a 73 yard rush against Toledo and a 36 yarder against OSU.
There’s a chance.
Arizona is bringing guns to a gun fight. Oregon would be smart to bring some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
James Gomez is a Pac-12 and Mountain West columnist for Rant Sports and member of the Football Writers Association of America
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