A year ago, Oregon had its hopes of winning the Pac-12 dashed by Arizona when the Ducks were upset in the second-to-last game of the regular season. The No.2 team in college football looks to avoid the same result when the two rivals meet this week.
A win for Arizona in 2014 would come as even more of a surprise than it did last season. When ESPN broadcasts the contest on national TV on Thursday Night, the Ducks will be heavy favorites. With the game in Oregon this time, the home team is giving the Wildcats 23 point at Las Vegas casinos.
Oregon’s first four games make it easy to see why the betting odds have Arizona as such large underdogs. Both teams are undefeated, but the Ducks have been much more impressive in their victories.
The Ducks’ wins have come by an average of over 27 points per game, including a 19-point victory over then-No.7 Michigan State. The Wildcats haven’t played a ranked team, and all but one of their wins have come by seven points or fewer.
In their most recent win, Oregon did get a bit of a scare. They won at Washington State 38-31, needing a touchdown with 5:33 remaining to seal their first conference win of 2014. Marcus Mariota led the Ducks with five passing touchdowns.
Through four games, the Oregon quarterback is among the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy. He’s completed 74 percent of his passes for 1,135 yards, 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. Mariota has also added 214 yards on the ground for three scores on 6.5 yards per carry.
Mariota has been incredibly efficient, leading the nation with a 218.0 passer rating and spreading the ball amongst his wide receivers, three of which have caught for over 220 yards. Injuries to the offense line, however, could make things more difficult on Thursday.
With Jake Fisher and Andre Yruretagoyena out in Oregon’s last game, Mariota was sacked seven times. The Wildcats will look to take advantage of the Ducks’ banged up offensive line, thought Mariota was still able to complete 21 of 25 pass attempts against Washington State.
If Oregon jumps out to an early lead, it will be very difficult for Arizona to keep pace and even keep the game close. The Ducks have the No.4 offense in college football, averaging 48.5 points per game and never scoring fewer than 38 points in a single contest.
Arizona has showcased an ability to come from behind when facing big deficits. In their last game, the Wildcats put up 36 points in the fourth quarter to erase an 18-point California lead. Arizona clinched the victory with a 47-yard touchdown pass from Anu Solomon to Austin Hill as time expired.
Prediction: Oregon had trouble with Washington State, but they are virtually unstoppable at home. Arizona does not have a great defense, and this game could be over by halftime.
Predicted Score: Oregon 50, Arizona 24