Sept. 15, 2012; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats quarterback Matt Scott (10) throws during the first half against the South Carolina State Bulldogs at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE
ABOUT THE OPPONENT: The Oregon Ducks finally face off against a legitimate opponent as Rich Rodriguez brings his Arizona Wildcats into town for a late night kickoff at Autzen Stadium. Arizona has been a pleasant surprise in the Pac-12 so far this season. After struggling with Toledo in their opener, Arizona put up 59 is a dismantling of Okahoma State, and followed that up with a 56-0 shutout of FCS South Carolina State. This game marks the first trip outside of Tucson for Arizona, as well as the best opponent they have played to date.
ARIZONA OFFENSE: When we think of Rich Rodriguez, we think of a run based spread, but Arizona has been extremely balanced this season, with only a few more rushing attempts than passing attempts. Rodriguez was extremely lucky that Matt Scott fell into his lap, and the dual threat QB has been fantastic to this point. Scott has completed 71% of his passes for seven touchdowns and only one interception. He also averages 63 yards a game on the ground, employing many of the zone read techniques that Oregon fans are used to in the Ducks' offense. Scott will provide a test that the Ducks' defense hasn't seen in game action yet this season, but one that they should be familiar with in practice.
Of course, the Wildcats also ran a spread under Mike Stoops, but that spread was a four or five wide air raid attack. Rodriguez is much more of a running guy, and Ka'deem Carey has fit that bill. The sophomore has a bit of bulk at 200 pounds, but still possesses breakaway speed. He averages nearly six yards a carry and is helped by the fact that Scott is such a weapon. Carey has also caught six balls this year, and him leaking out of the backfield is something that must be watched.
Arizona has had really great receivers for a long time now, and this year appears to be no exception. Dan Buckner returns as the headliner, who already has 22 catches on the season, but they have four players already in double digits, and another three with five or more. And this isn't just a factor of playing in blowouts--its legitimate depth, as two of their three games have gone into the fourth quarter. Factor all this with the fact that the entire two-deep is back on the offensive line, and its easy to see why they're averaging 6.5 yards per play and over 600 yards per game. The only weakness is that they don't have any depth at quarterback, and a Matt Scott injury would be absolutely devastating for them.
ARIZONA DEFENSE: While the offense looks elite, the defense has a ton of question marks. They gave up over 600 yards to Oklahoma State, including well over 400 in the air. Only costly interceptions by a freshman quarterback making his first start on the road allowed Arizona to take control of that game. Its hard to gather conclusions from a game like South Carolina State, so the Oklahoma State game is the most legitimate data point we have, and sans the turnovers, it was a disaster for the Arizona defense. That could be true even moreso against Oregon. Depth was considered a huge issue for Arizona at the beginning of the season on the defensive side, and I'm curious to see how their defense is able to handle Oregon's pace. MLB Jake Fischer is their best defensive player and already has 33 tackles on the season.
ARIZONA SPECIAL TEAMS: Early returns on their kicking tandem are mixed. John Bonano is 4-7 on field goals, but has missed three from inside 30 yards. Kyle Dugandzic has been quite good at punter so far, with half of his eight punts inside the 20 and two being fair caught. Average return has been two yards. However, Arizona gives up almost 24 yards per kickoff return, and I can't help but wonder if they'll short kick it to avoid DeAnthony Thomas.
KEY MATCHUP: Oregon's pace vs. Arizona's depth. Defensive depth is a huge issue for Arizona, and I wonder if this is a defense that could look good in the first half, but start to wear down late in the game after facing the pace all game long.
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