We have successfully made it through the first three weeks of the college football season. As boring as the preseason games were, Oregon didn't break the first two rules of college football: don't lose. Now Arizona posts an interesting threat. They beat Oklahoma State, who although they lost a ton of parts from last years team, is still very good. The Wildcats have a coach who helped the spread go mainstream and pass on the spread offense to many other coaches.
Oregon Will Win If
Avoid Turnovers. Oregon is currently -2 in turnovers on the season, meaning they've given up two more than they've taken. Against a team like Arizona that can score points in a hurry the last thing you want to do is give them a short field to work with, especially early. If Arizona gets in to a rhythm then this game could be a little too exciting for fans in Autzen.
Explosion Plays. Arizona has very little depth on defense, and the best thing to do would to make the game a track meet. Even if Arizona is trading blows for the first half and standing toe to toe, their defense will start failing in the second half. Get points on the board, get them quickly, and keep the defense on its heels.
Establish the Run. If I'm Arizona and game planning for Oregon, I'm putting as many guys in the box as possible to stop the run. I'm forcing Marcus Mariota to carry the ball every time he has the option. He is the least dangerous weapon between Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas. I'd force Oregon to throw it over 40 times and have Marcus Mariota carry it over 20 times to see if he wears down over time.
No Penalties. Oregon's greatest weakness on defense right now is itself. They have given up 9 first downs because of penalties, the most notable being roughing the passer. On offense penalties come with playing as fast as possible but on defense stupid penalties can't continue heading in to conference play.
Arizona Will Win If
Force Turnovers. Arizona is a team that is fast on defense, but has been able to benefit from an extra turnover a game on average. Against a dominant team like Oregon, and a team that loves to spread and shred at break-neck pace, it is incredibly important to take points off the board and create short fields. Oregon's defense is just as prepared, if not more prepared, for Arizona's offense than anyone they will play all season.
Stay Disciplined. Arizona uses a 3-3-5 defense, meaning 3 linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs as their base defense. This puts a lot of speed on the field and can help the Wildcats neutralize Oregon's speed. Most of the time defenses have to run nickel and dime packages with the defensive backs not having as much playing time, but Arizona's nickel package is experienced. However, the speed means nothing if they don't stay disciplined. When players get out of their gap responsibility and start playing based off feel then the spaces for Oregon players to run in will be huge.
Stop Oregon on 3rd Down. So Arizona runs a 3-3-5 that puts speed on the field. What they lose is depth. The safeties have had to play almost every down so far this season simply because of depth issues. Oregon currently converts 50% of their third down opportunities. Arizona will probably have told hold that number to 35% or fewer if they want their defense to make it through a whole game.
Force Oregon in to Field Goals. While the bend and don't break defense was criticized for years, when you face goliaths, they tend to work. You know teams will score points, it is just a matter of whether it is 7 or 3 points at a time. Especially with a team like Oregon that has yet to make a field goal this year, Arizona needs to keep Oregon out of the end zone.