With all the talk of the BCS, we haven't spent much time talking about Arizona. So, let's dig into tomorrow night's game.
Oregon Defense vs. Arizona Offense
As you probably know, Arizona is the least balanced offense in the Pac-10. They have the best passing offense at 316 ypg, but are averaging an absolutely pitiful 82 ypg on the ground. This imbalance has not helped their 3rd down (34.5%), 4th down (23.5%), and red zone (44% TD, 30% FG) conversion rates.
This offensive game plan plays into what Oregon has been doing well this season. It is going to be feast or famine all night long for the Arizona offense. Now, Tuitama throws a very nice ball, and if he can make quick reads before the rush gets to him, Arizona will move the ball downfield quickly. However, if the first few reads are poor, or his receivers don't get open quickly, he will be in for a long game, as Reed and the rest of the D-line can rush him all night long. The D-line also has the added advantage of being able to play a more undisciplined game than we would have seen against ASU or USC, as they will not have to concentrate on stopping the run, and do not have to deal with an elusive quarterback. I have a feeling we're going to see the boys up front having a lot of fun.
What I envision is much what we saw against USC or ASU. Arizona will have drives where they are clicking on all cylinders, where it seems like they can throw the ball wherever they want, and can do no wrong. However, they will then have drives where the defensive schemes are perfect and the pressure forces Tuitama into mistakes or sacks him.
Now, if the offense put our defense in bad field position, Arizona could put up a lot of points, however, they will not be able to consistently make drives of 70+ yards. They will get into to many bad positions through ineffective runs or sacks. I do not see them being in many 3rd and short situations, and Oregon has been very good at stopping 3rd downs this season (ASU was 2/13), and I expect this trend to continue.
There is a lot of talk about this game getting into a shoot out, and this could be true. Arizona is either really clicking or they are not, but because of the game that they play, I feel our D will thrive on this. They thrive on making plays, and there will be ample opportunity against Arizona.
Oregon Offense vs. Arizona Defense
Well, I don't know how much there is to say about this. I don't think that too many teams in the country can slow down the offense, let alone stop it. Arizona has had problems with mobile QBs (see New Mexico and Washington), and we put up 35 points in 3 quarters against a much better defense last week. If Dixon and Dickson are not 100%, there could be problems, but both will play, and Dixon sounds very confident about his health. As always, turnovers could doom us, but we're leading the Pac-10 in turnover margin, and I don't expect that to change.
Bottom line, if we don't have at least 35 points, I would be surprised.
Special Teams and X-factor
I don't think there should be too many surprises on special teams, though Oregon holds a large advantage in kickoff returns. Both teams have very solid punting games, so let's just hope for no turnovers in this area.
The only thing that concerns me about this game is that Arizona always plays us tough. It hasn't been an easy game in some time, thought Oregon usually ends up with the win. Stoops and Bellotti seem to have a little rivalry going on, so Arizona will not roll over and die. Plus, the domination in Autzen last year has given them confidence against our team, especially for the Arizona defense. However, our team could not be more different than the team than the one that lost by 27 at Autzen last season. They remember that beating and are not overlooking the Wildcats.
Worst case scenario for this game is it gets into a shootout, Oregon cannot stop the passing game, and both teams match scores until someone wins it on their last possession.
Yet, I don't see that happening. Arizona is a good team, but far too inconsistent on offense to keep pace with our balanced attack. I think Oregon takes a comfortable lead early, never slams the door, but wins by a comfortable margin, 38-23 Ducks.