The last post I did on how FEI & S&P viewed the Rose Bowl matchup was pretty popular as well as being reasonably accurate in predictive value - so for this season I'm going to try and do the same thing for all the Pac-12 matchups for Oregon. This will obviously become a bit more useful as we get more data for all teams; in particular FEI throws out any FBS/FCS matchup as useless, so for this week FEI's working on all of two data points.
The tl;dr version: Vegas is likely right and Oregon should dominate, especially via defense and running game.
Oregon: #2 overall (312). 127.0 offense (#9), 185 defense (#2)
Arizona: #36 overall. (217). 104 offense(#44), 113 defense (33)
While Oregon is 'only' ranked #2 in defense they are so far beyond Arizona as far as S&P is concerned that it is equivalent to almost twice the difference between Arizona and New Mexico (ranked 124th). The only team that has a better defense as far as S&P is concerned is Alabama - though to be fair the difference between Oregon and Alabama's performance is essentially the same as the difference in Arizona and Oregon's.
Right away we see a huge deal. Arizona's strength so far is on an opportunistic, fast defense. That will cause some concerns. Oregon has a fairly large but not insane advantage here with their offense, at least on its face. On defense, however, it's an entirely different and scary area - Arizona is weaker on offense and Oregon is dominant. This should imply that Oregon will get a lot of good field position, turnovers and short drives. Boyett's injury is a big question mark here, but it's not clear whether or not Boyett was, well, Boyett for much of this season anyway.
On offense: Oregon is exceptional across the board, ranking 3rd or 4th in success rate, explosive rate, S&P and rush S&P. passing is 8th and standard downs is 7th. The big scary part is on passing downs - we are 45th. This brings me to a similar conclusion to the Rose Bowl: the way we win is if we stay out of passing downs. If we can consistently get yards on first down, we will likely do amazingly well. If they can stop us on first down we will have a lot of stalled drives.
Arizona is pretty good at all categories but not dominant in any. 21st in success rate, 38th in explosiveness, 30th in rush S&P, 29th in pass S&P, 26th in standard downs and a very good 18th in passing downs. This brings us to the next point: Oregon must win passing downs. Arizona's offense is good enough to get good first down yardage despite having a lot of yards to go.
On defense: keep in mind that S&P is not adjusted for opponent until later in the season for anything other than the actual S&P numbers. All these are raw and unadjusted. That being said, there are a few scary things here. While most of our overall numbers are good, the one that stands out is being 69th overall on standard downs. That means teams have been successful in getting yards early in the down count. That's not as critical a deal when facing Arizona, but it's still fairly scary. This is going to kill us against stronger opponents. I'm not freaking out because, well, it's super early - but it's something to look at going forward. As to defense for Arizona here's something that should make Duck fans salivate: Arizona's run defense is 66th overall. That's right - Arizona's worst part of their defense is also Oregon's bread and butter playstyle. Good luck, Rodriguez. As long as we don't get cute we should be able to run all day.
Oregon: 8th overall (.231). GE .350 (10th), offensive efficiency .898 (10th), defense -.535(25th), field position .487(69th)
Arizona: 32nd overall (.122). GE .129 (38th), OE .006 (58th), DE -.077 (54th) FPA .576 (17th)
Once again, FEI doesn't see FBS/FCS matchups, which is likely why Oregon looks a bit better and Arizona looks a bit worse in S&P. Also note that S&P does not value turnovers nearly as much as FEI does as a whole, meaning Arizona's 6 turnovers against OKST look really awesome and Oregon's bad turnovers against Fresno aren't quite so hawt. Never the less, the numbers are fairly against Arizona here; while their game efficiency is decent they've mostly been successful with short fields. Oregon by comparison has had fairly bad luck on short fields and opportunistic plays so far (at least in by the two games FEI counts), but they've been very dominant in game and offensive efficiency. And much like S&P one of Oregon's biggest strengths is running right into Arizona's biggest weakness.
Sadly there is no individual breakdown for FEI offense/defense until week 7. Anecdotally we know that we've been inconsistent on special teams; Arizona is a bit better here. But nothing that should be a giant red flag, at least at this point in time.
So what does this mean? DON'T PANIC. As long as Oregon is reasonable in limiting mistakes and does not have a lot of injuries they should roll over Arizona. The 59 points they scored on OKST is a bit intimidating, but most of this was because of 6 turnovers from a freshman QB who also put 440 yards of passing on them as well. Their defense is opportunistic but not explosive, and Mariota is significantly more poised so far than a freshman starter has any right to be. Arizona's offense is good but not great, and Oregon's defense has shown no sign of being anything other than stellar.
F/+ says that Oregon will cover the spread, and this time I think that's correct. The reason we haven't been prior to this is the lack of starters for an entire game. This game will likely be different in that regard, and a 24 point lead won't be enough to pull starters until late into the 4th. Arizona is the toughest opponent Oregon has faced but it is only about 10 points better than Fresno State; we are 105 points better than Fresno State.
My prediction: expect a lot of Barner, a lot of Mariota running, and a dominant win.
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