The Oregon Ducks begin their quest for a third consecutive conference championship this Saturday when they fly south for a visit with the Arizona Wildcats (10:15 pm Eastern, ESPN2).
Oregon returned 11 starters this year, including QB Darron Thomas and RB LaMichael James, from the team that lost the BCS national championship game last January. The Ducks then opened this season by losing to highly-regarded LSU 40-27 in Dallas. Oregon actually outgained the Tigers 335-273, but turned the ball over four times. They also got held to just 95 yards rushing.
The Ducks then came home and walloped Nevada 69-20, piling up 603 yards of offense. And last week they dispatched of FCS Missouri State 56-7.
Arizona returned 10 starters this season, five on each side of the ball and just one on the offensive line, from a team that went 4-5 in conference play last year. The Wildcats began their season with a 41-10 victory over FCS Northern Arizona. But the ‘Cats then hit the road for a Thursday night game at Oklahoma State, and got schooled, losing 37-14. Arizona fell behind 21-0 at the half, and eventually gave up 594 yards of offense to the Cowboys. OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden completed 42 of 53 passes that night for 397 yards against the Wildcats’ iffy pass defense.
Arizona then opened its PAC-12 slate last week by getting beat at home by Stanford 37-10. The ‘Cats fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter, rallied a bit to trail 16-10 at the half, but got outscored 21-0 in the second half. Stanford racked up 567 yards of offense on Arizona, and outrushed the Wildcats 242-51.
In the quarterback comparison for Saturday’s game Oregon’s Thomas has completed 63% of his passes this year for 8.4 yards per attempt, with a 10/1 touchdown/interception ratio. Meanwhile, Arizona QB Nick Foles has hit on 75% of this throws this year for 8.3 YPA, with seven TDs and zero INTs.
Last year Oregon beat Arizona 48-29 as a 19-point home favorite. The Wildcats actually led at the half 19-14 but the Ducks outscored Arizona 34-10 in the second half. Both teams accumulated over 500 yards of offense, but the Ducks outrushed the ‘Cats 389-58.
Oregon should have covered the spread that day, but gave up a safety and missed on a 2-point conversion early in the third quarter.
The Ducks are ranked No. 13 in this week’s USA Today poll. So far this season teams ranked in the USA Today’s Top 25 are 52-6 straight-up vs. unranked teams, but only 28-29 against the pointspreads.
5Dimes.com opened this game with Oregon favored by 13.5 points, but as of Thursday afternoon the Ducks had been bet up to -15. And the over/under sits at 64.5.
The Wildcats may be an underdog for Saturday, but they’ve got a recent history of upsetting ranked teams. Last year the ‘Cats knocked off No. 9 Iowa; in 2009 they beat No. 20 USC; in ’08 they picked off No. 25 Cal; and in ’07, as 10-point dogs, they upset Oregon, which was ranked No. 2 at the time.
Oregon Ducks at Arizona Wildcats Pick: This game is a hard one to decipher. The Ducks are not the team they were last year, as was apparent in that loss to LSU, so 15 points looks like a lot. But Arizona did not look good vs. either Oklahoma State or Stanford. Nonetheless, if we have to pick this game, we’ll take the points with the home team, and hope the Wildcats can scratch out a cover.
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