The non-conference schedule is over and for Oregon, Pac-12 play starts Saturday as Oregon hosts the Arizona Wildcats. Their trajectories couldn’t be different, as Oregon is ranked third in the nation, while Arizona is winless and coming off a loss to an FCS school. However, anything can happen in conference play, and it’s imperative the Ducks start off on the right foot if they want to make it to another Pac-12 Championship game, as well as a potential CFB playoff appearance. As usual, here are some reasons why the Ducks will or won’t win against the Wildcats.
Why They’ll Win
Wildcats QB Play
To say things haven’t gone as planned for the Wildcats would be an understatement, especially on the offensive side of the ball. In their most recent outing, a 21-19 loss to FCS Northern Arizona, Wildcats Head Coach Jedd Fisch pulled QB Will Plummer in favor of Jordan McCloud, recently transferred from South Florida. McCloud looked good in limited action, but ultimately not good enough to keep the Wildcats from their first loss to the Lumberjacks since 1932, which has led Fisch to keep from announcing a starter before their Saturday tilt against the Ducks.
If the Wildcats opt for McCloud, he’d be their third starting QB in four games, which doesn’t lend itself for success. It’s hard for an offense to feel comfortable and build a rapport with a quarterback when that same QB might not be playing in the next game. It also doesn’t do the quarterbacks any favors, it can lead to playing with a fear of getting pulled after a mistake or two. If the Wildcats go with multiple QBs against Oregon, it could spell disaster.
15 Game Losing Streak
Oct. 5th, 2019. This date is significant for two reasons. The first is it’s the day I got married to my amazing wife. The other reason is it’s also the last time the University of Arizona won a football game. What you’re thinking is correct, I cursed Arizona and they haven’t won since. To make matters worse, their most recent loss is one of their worst in recent memory. The Wildcats are at an extremely low point, and while they do have talent on the team, they haven’t been able to put it together for a dub.
Given how both programs have looked after three games this year, it isn’t a stretch to say that the Ducks should roll the Wildcats.
The run game has been the strength of the Ducks offense this year, averaging 5 yards a carry and over 200 yards a game. A successful running game simultaneously wears down the defense and controls the clock. The combination of CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, along with the running ability of QB Anthony Brown, has been a lethal three-headed attack that has had a lot of success against Ohio State and Stony Brook.
Arizona only allowed 3.3 yds per carry against NAU, but against San Diego State, UA allowed 271 yards at almost 5 yards a carry, similar numbers to what Oregon has been putting up this year. If the Ducks continue putting up the kind of numbers they have been all year on the ground, it’ll be a long night for the Wildcats, with their offense stuck on the bench.
Why They Won’t Win
Let’s just say that Arizona tends to have success when the Ducks are highly ranked. Since 2007, the Wildcats have three wins against the Ducks when they are ranked no. 5 or higher, the most recent coming in 2014, when Arizona stunned the Ducks 31-24. Now the Ducks did go on to get revenge by stomping the Wildcats in the Pac-12 Championship Game, but UA did manage to knock the Ducks off their pedestal when they were ranked no. 2 in the nation.
While this Wildcats team isn’t nearly as talented as the last team that upset the Ducks, sports fans are a superstitious lot and Arizona’s track record of success against Oregon ranked in the Top 5 has to be something that’s in the back of Ducks’ fans heads going into Saturday’s matchup.
Hungry For a Win
Remember how early I wrote that Arizona’s on a 15 game losing streak? While it’s not necessarily good for UA, but one thing it could definitely do is fuel them for a win, and a win against a big opponent. It’s been almost two years since they won a game, they just got humiliated by an FCS team and nothing would right the ship better than a conference win against one of the highest ranked teams in the nation.
Halftime at Autzen Stadium.#GoDucks pic.twitter.com/ppluU1iBiq— Oregon Football (@oregonfootball) September 19, 2021
Playing Down To Their Level
As we saw with Stony Brook, Oregon started slower in the first half before putting the pedal to floor and putting away the Seawolves. Given Arizona’s record, there’s a chance that Oregon will still run a somewhat vanilla game-plan, saving some of their best for the rest of the Pac-12 Conference. If Oregon starts the game out too slowly, Arizona could get inspired to take control of the game and potentially ruin the Duck’s chances at a playoff appearance.
Despite the differences in their record, Oregon shouldn’t be afraid to put Arizona away early and ruin any chances the Wildcats may have of playing spoiler. Doing anything else could be disastrous.
While Arizona has some history on their side, the Ducks have talent, experienced coaching, and homefield advantage on theirs. I’d look for Arizona to put up a fight, but ultimately the Ducks will win big, but maybe not as big as everyone thinks.
Oregon 42, Arizona 20