Date/Time: October 2, 10:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Oregon -22
Arizona had their prayers answered in their last game, beating Cal with a last-second Hail Mary to move to 4-0. Oregon struggled through a surprisingly-close game against Washington State on September 20 to set up this Thursday night contest between unbeaten teams. Neither one of these teams has had much difficulty on offense, as Arizona averages nearly 594 yards per game and Oregon checks in with 555 yards per game. The Ducks are more than a three-touchdown favorite to move to 5-0.
The Arizona Wildcats entered the season with a lot of questions. Anu Solomon won the starting quarterback job after a lengthy competition and so far it has been the right decision. Through four games, Solomon has thrown for 1,454 yards and 13 touchdowns, with just three interceptions. With a prolific passing game to open up holes, true freshman Nick Wilson has run for 482 yards through four games. Five different Wildcats have 10 or more receptions. With 42 points per game, the Wildcats aren’t having any trouble putting up points.
The caveat, and it’s a big one, is that Arizona has faced one average or better defense this season. UTSA held Arizona to a season-low 26 points and 85 of the team’s 454 yards came on one play. The line would indicate that the oddsmakers are skeptical of the Wildcats and, given their competition, that seems like a fair assessment. The Wildcats defense has allowed over 27 points per game to the likes of UNLV, UTSA, Nevada, and Cal.
Oregon has a revenge angle here after getting destroyed in Tucson last season. The Wildcats rolled to a 42-16 surprise blowout win, even though the Ducks racked up over 500 yards of offense. The Ducks had a major statement game against Michigan State and have coasted to two other wins this season. Projected first-round pick Marcus Mariota has completed 74 percent of his passes with 13 TDs and no interceptions so far. Four different running backs have 175 or more yards and the Ducks are ripping off 5.7 yards per carry through four games.
On the strength of their defense, the Ducks outgained Pac-12 opponents 540-402 on average last season, but they’ll get quite a test from the Arizona offense. The Ducks pass defense showed some holes against Washington State as Connor Halliday was 43-of-63 for 436 and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Arizona will bring more tempo and a lot more balance and the Oregon defense will need to be more responsible. One has to wonder if the Ducks struggled because they overlooked the Cougars or if this defense has taken a couple steps back with just five returning starters from last season.
Rich Rodriguez is building an impressive program in Tucson as he is now 20-10 straight up. Against the number, the Wildcats are just 14-16 under Rich Rod and just 1-3 ATS this season. This will be Arizona’s first underdog spot of the season. They were 1-3 ATS last season, with the win an outright upset over Oregon. Mark Helfrich inherited a 12-1 team from Chip Kelly and went 11-2 with an 8-5 ATS mark last season. The Ducks are 4-0 straight up, but just 1-3 ATS on the season. The Ducks are 5-5 ATS as home chalk, but two of their ATS losses this season are spreads of 42 and 52.
Free College Football Pick: Arizona Wildcats
The Wildcats aren’t going to stop the Ducks, but it’s hard to see the Ducks stopping the Wildcats enough to cover a very large number. The Ducks were 4-5 ATS as chalk of three touchdowns or more last season. Most of the experience on the Arizona defense is in the secondary and that should help in this game with such a big spread. With a trip to UCLA on deck, the Ducks won’t overlook Arizona, but may put it in cruise control with a big lead late.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.