Saturday, September 22, 2012
Oregon gets test, Arizona an opportunity
By Ted Miller
EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon has been off to the side during the season's first three weeks due to a weak nonconference schedule. So the Ducks are probably as happy as anyone that Arizona arrives with a national ranking and a quality win over Oklahoma State.
At last: A test. An opportunity to showcase promising redshirt freshman QB Marcus Mariota, Heisman Trophy candidate De'Anthony Thomas and a defense that is supposed to be the equal of the Ducks' always high-powered offense.
The Ducks can make a real statement after thoroughly dominating Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech, particularly their defense. The Wildcats' offense is A-list, led by QB Matt Scott, RB Ka'Deem Carey, a strong crew of receivers and a veteran offensive line. Together they've produced 605 yards per game, nearly equally split between pass and run, which ranks fourth in the nation.
If the Ducks can shut down the Wildcats, who have taken well to Rich Rodriguez's spread schemes, they probably can stop just about anyone.
And what about the Wildcats defense? Well, it's played better than expected and been opportunistic. But it gave up over 600 yards in the win over the Cowboys and lacks depth and playmakers, particularly up front.
If the Wildcats can frustrate Mariota, who is making his first start against a team with a pulse, and force a few early mistakes, this one could get interesting.
The Ducks will take pressure off Mariota by getting the ball to its playmakers: Thomas and RB Kenjon Barner. Those two are fully capable of taxing any defense.
"Taxing a defense" will be a part of this game. Both offenses run at a breakneck pace. Oregon is much deeper on defense, so it should be able to keep guys fresher. Freshness might become an issue for the Wildcats as the second half advances.
Oregon is trying to position itself in the national title hunt. That fact presents a great opportunity for Rodriguez and the Wildcats to make their own statement, one that would resonate nationally.