(5) Oregon (9-1) at Arizona (6-4)
Saturday, November 23, 3:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: With their Pac-12 title chances reborn the No. 5 Oregon Ducks will try to fend off the Arizona Wildcats in the a conference collision this weekend.
Thanks to Stanford's 20-17 loss to USC last weekend the Ducks are back on top of the Pac-12 North Division. The Ducks, who lost to the Cardinal two weeks ago (26-20), took down Utah (44-21) over the weekend and are now 6-1 in league play. That conference record puts them a half game ahead of the Cardinal in the league standings with two games to play. Oregon is boasting a 9-1 record overall and though the chances are slim, there is still hope that it could get into the national championship picture.
"Now we have the right to control our own destiny. But really its just one game at a time like we always take it," Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota said." To have that opportunity to possibly play in the Pac-12 championship is huge. But we can't overlook things. We can't slip up and look past Arizona. Our focus is here today and getting ready for Arizona."
Arizona has been slipping recently. The Wildcats dropped back-to-back home games in the last two weeks with setbacks against UCLA (31-26) and Washington State (24-17). The recent stumbles have not been a great sign late in the year for the Wildcats, who are now 6-4 overall and far from contention for the Pac-12 crown at 3-4 in league action. Playing at home isn't guaranteed to give the Wildcats much of an advantage as they have just three wins in five tries at Wildcat Stadium.
"It was just poor execution. We had too many unforced errors, dropped snaps and easy field goals missed, " Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said." Our margin for error is very slim and if we play poorly it will be hard for us to win."
Last year Oregon forced five turnovers and racked up 495 yards of total offense in posting a 49-0 rout of the Wildcats at Autzen Stadium. The win was the fifth straight against Arizona for Oregon, which leads the all-time series by a count of 24-14.
Other than its slip-up against Stanford, Oregon has been dominating on offense week in and week out. The Ducks lead the Pac-12 and are second nationally in total offense (580.2 ypg), while scoring 50.9 points per game.
At the center of all that success is Mariota, who has been hobbled by some knee issues in recent weeks, but has still remained productive. Mariota threw for 288 yards and three scores on 19-of-26 passing against Utah to add to an already impressive campaign. Mariota has thrown for 2,819 yards and 25 scores on 64.2 percent passing. Even more impressive is the zero interceptions he has thrown. Mariota is currently riding a Pac-12 record of 353 pass attempts without an interception. Mariota has had negative rushing totals in each of the last two weeks, but with 477 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground he is still a threat with his legs.
Even without Mariota running the ball the Ducks are still dangerous on the ground thanks to a stable of talented backs. Chief among them is Byron Marshall (991 yards, 14 TDs). Marshall has not had a 100-yard effort in back- to-back games but is still near the 1,000-yard mark on the campaign. Marshall had 66 yards and two scores on 11 carries against Utah. Thomas Tyner (496 yards, eight TDs) and De'Anthony Thomas (410 yards, seven TDs) are each effective rushers as well.
There is also plenty of talent on the outside where Josh Huff and Bralon Addison have been catching passes. Huff (45 receptions, 802 yards, seven TDs) leads the team in receiving yards and is coming off a four-receptions, 57-yard outing against Utah. Addison (47 receptions, 742 yards, seven TDs) is equally productive.
Oregon is not as productive on defense but it is still a solid group. The Ducks rank fourth in the Pac-12 in yards allowed (354.8 ypg) and have been even more impressive in limiting scoring to a Pac-12 best 18.2 ppg. Much of that is due to opportunistic play by the Ducks, who are tied for the second most forced turnovers (24) in the Pac-12. Terrance Mitchell (47 tackles, five INTs) and Tony Washington (7.5 sacks) are the real playmakers for the Ducks.
Against Arizona the Ducks face a challenge, especially against the run. The Wildcats are in the bottom half of the league in total offense (452.2 ypg), but they are second in the league, behind Oregon, in rushing yards (263.7 ypg).
If the Ducks hope to slow down the Wildcats, they will have to find some way to contain Ka'Deem Carey. The star running back is the second leading rusher in the country (150.3 ypg), as he has totaled 1,353 yards and 12 scores on 242 carries this year. Carey has had more than 100 yards in every game he has played this season and in 13 straight games overall.
Adding punch to the rushing attack is quarterback B.J. Denker, who has posted 709 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground this year. Denker's passing has left a bit more to be desired. Although he is completing just under 60 percent of his pass attempts, Denker has only recorded 1,888 yards and 12 scores on the year.
In terms of receiving, the best options for the Wildcats are Nate Phillips (36 receptions, 454 yards, six TDs) and Samajie Grant (41 receptions, 315 yards, TD). Phillips had a team-high seven receptions, though for only 45 yards, against Washington STate. He is also the only pass-catcher to come close to a 100-yard game this year. Grant had five receptions for 44 yards against the Cougars. Terrence Miller (26 receptions, 347 yards) also gets involved.
Tra'Mayne Bondurant (53 tackles, 2.0 sacks, four INTs) has been a real playmaker for the Wildcats in the secondary. Thanks to his efforts the Wildcats have 13 interceptions this year, which is one more than they had all last season. However, Arizona still needs work on the defensive side as it is eighth in the league in yards allowed (387.9 ypg).
With their title hopes restored, the Ducks should be playing with renewed vigor this weekend. The Wildcats can keep up with the Ducks on the ground thanks to Carey, but they don't have enough in the passing game to hang with Mariota. Oregon should roll to its 10th win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oregon 48, Arizona 21
11/20 10:47:23 ET