Week 6 Pac-12: Arizona at Oregon

Arizona (4-0) at Oregon (4-0) Oct. 4, 7:30, Fox 

Here’s The Deal: Last Nov. 23, Arizona stunned Oregon, 42-16, to deny the Ducks the Pac-12 North and a crack at another league title. This year, Oregon has revenge on its mind. The sting of last year’s loss in Tucson is still fresh in the Ducks’ minds, as they attempt to protect—and even build on their No. 2 ranking in the AP poll. Oregon will have some convincing to do this week, because it struggled with Washington State in its last outing two weeks ago. The Wildcats have flirted with disaster this fall as well, winning each of its last three games by no more than seven points. The exclamation point came in a 49-45 win over Cal on a 47-yard Hail Mary as the clock expired. 

Why Arizona Might Win: You have to score plenty of points to keep pace with Oregon. The Wildcats have the weapons to do just that. Arizona peaked in the Cal win, which ought to continue against a Duck D that’s been shaky so far this season. Rookie QB Anu Solomon continues to become more comfortable, aided by an elite corps of receivers comprised of Nate Phillips, Austin Hill and budding superstar Cayleb Jones. Jones and Hill versus Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Erick Dargan and the rest of the Oregon secondary will be a dynamite matchup. 

Why Oregon Might Win: If Arizona couldn’t slow down Cal, what shot does it have against a Duck team playing with something to prove? QB Marcus Mariota wasn’t 100% in last year’s Arizona game, but he is now, accounting for 16 touchdowns without a pick. And while his weapons aren’t quite as incendiary as in recent years, he has access to enough athletes, like backs Royce Freeman and Byron Marshall and receivers Devon Allen and Keanon Lowe, to exploit the suspect Wildcat D. Cal tagged ‘Zona for eight yards per play two weeks ago.

Who To Watch Out For: Oregon has had genuine problems in pass protection. But can Arizona exploit an O-line that’s been ravaged by injuries? Washington State remarkably brought Mariota down seven times. Now, Wildcat defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has had two weeks to devise a scheme that’ll pressure the pocket without necessarily leaving the defensive backs alone on an island. The chess match between Casteel and Duck offensive coordinator Scott Frost will go a long way to determining if this game is competitive in the fourth quarter. 

What’s Going To Happen: This is an especially important game for Mariota, which does not bode well for Arizona. The Ducks have something to prove this Thursday, for last year’s loss to the Wildcats and for the close call with Wazzu two weeks ago. While Arizona has enough firepower in the passing game to hang around for a while, Mariota-led Oregon will pull away for good with an explosive second half. 

Prediction: Oregon 46 … Arizona 24 
Line: Oregon -23 o/u: 76.5 
Must Watch Factor: 5: Gone Girl – 1: Mulaney … 3.5