The No. 2 Oregon Ducks will look to avenge their lone defeat of the season on Friday when they face the No. 7 Arizona Wildcats at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Friday in the Pac-12 championship game. Arizona stunned Oregon for the second straight season with a 31-24 win at Autzen Stadium on Oct. 2, in arguably the most notable result of the Pac-12 season.
The win helped put Arizona in the driver’s seat to win the Pac-12 South. It was also a surprising victory, considering the Wildcats’ 42-16 thumping of the Ducks, who were ranked No. 2 at the time, in 2013.
"Last year it was really heartwarming because it was the seniors' last home game, and it was improbable, of course," Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said after the game. "This one, I don't know if anybody picked us. I don't know how many people were talking about us, but I bet you most of them weren't thinking this was going to happen, not on the road."
If the regular-season game is any indication of what’s to come in the conference matchup, then it could be a real nail-biter. The October game was strikingly close, with the Cats’ running game giving them an edge. Arizona out-rushed Oregon, 208 yards to 144. But both teams turned over the ball twice, and penalties were almost identical. Oregon was flagged 10 times for 79 yards, and Arizona was penalized nine times for 78 yards. Oregon edged Arizona in passing yards by just 15 and threw only one more completion.
Oregon has been on a tear since the loss, as Mark Helfrich’s squad would go on to defeat each opponent by an average margin of more than 24 points. The Ducks only faced two ranked opponents, UCLA and Utah, in their last seven games but defeated both of them on the road by 12 points and 24 points, respectively.
The Ducks are led by Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Mariota, who has only thrown two interceptions all season. The junior has completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 3,470 yards and 36 touchdowns and has rushed for 636 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Arizona is led by sensational freshman running back Nick Wilson, who has 16 total touchdowns this season. The Wildcats leading rusher surprised most experts by his relative ease in replacing star running back Ka’Deem Carey, who rushed for over 3,800 yards in his final two seasons. Wilson has averaged 6.2 yards per carry this season, an uptick from Carey’s 5.4 average in 2013.
"Truthfully, I expected to probably come in, just get some reps and probably be in a rotation or possibly redshirt," Wilson said after the Wildcats’ 42-35 victory over state rival Arizona State on Friday. "I got the chance, and I had the opportunity to make the best of it."
Point Spread: Oregon by 13 1/2 points
Over/Under: 71 1/2 points
Prediction: Oregon over Arizona, 44-35
An IBTimes staff reporter contributed to this report.