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Week 4 - Arizona at Oregon
Arizona QB Matt Scott
Arizona QB Matt Scott
Posted Sep 19, 2012

Week 4 CFN Fearless Prediction – Arizona at Oregon

Arizona (3-0) at Oregon (3-0) Sept. 22, 10:30, ESPN

Here’s The Deal: Oregon’s quest for a fourth straight Pac-12 championship wasn’t supposed to be threatened until it travelled to the Coliseum on Nov. 3. Arizona, apparently, received a different script before the season began.

Through the first quarter of the 2012 season, the Wildcats have been one of the biggest surprises in college football. Conventional wisdom suggested that Rich Rodriguez was going to be a good fit in Tucson. Absolutely no one was suggesting as recently as last month that the head coach would be paying hefty dividends this quickly. Arizona was supposed to beat Toledo and South Carolina State in Week 1 and Week 3, respectively. Ranked Oklahoma State? Few saw that coming. Now it’s the Cats who are ranked, confident and eyeing a program-defining upset of the nation’s No. 3 team. If RichRod can pull it off, his rebuilding plan will be on the tarmac and prepared for lift-off.

September has been a business trip thus far for Oregon, a program that’s become accustomed to lopsided wins and title chases. The Ducks have used their high-powered offense to jet past their first three opponents, Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech. This will be their first true test of the year, and the first legitimate challenge for redshirt freshman QB Marcus Mariota. After USC fell to Stanford last Saturday, Oregon can use this week’s visit from Arizona to solidify its spot as the face of the Pac-12 Conference.

Why Arizona Might Win: The new offense has gelled faster than anyone—even the staff—could have hoped.

RichRod and Chip Kelly in the same building is reason enough for this to qualify as a can’t-miss event. Rodriguez and his staff have done a marvelous of installing their version of the spread in such a short period of time. After starting slowly in the Toledo game, the Cats have erupted for at least 56 points in each of the last two games. Matt Scott has played as if he’s orchestrated this system for years, throwing seven touchdown passes, scrambling for two more and turning the ball over just once. The fifth-year senior is getting lots of support from budding RB Ka’Deem Carey and an eclectic group of receivers. While Oregon is home to an underrated defense, the loss to injury of S John Boyett two weeks ago could finally be noticeable on Saturday night.

Why Oregon Might Win: Arizona’s resurgence has been nice, but defense has had little to do with it.

The Cats have been a good story so far, but they’re far from a complete team. The D, for instance, is closer to the one that allowed 636 yards to Oklahoma State than the one that just shutout South Carolina State. Arizona is light on next-level players and is even lighter on pressure, ranking last in the league in sacks. The unit is not a good match for Kelly and his array of weapons. Mariota has performed a lot like Scott so far, spreading the ball around, ripping off the occasional big play and generally avoiding mistakes. He’s a phenomenal all-around athlete, as are streaking backs De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner. Thomas, especially, will take a pitch, a pass or a handoff and get to the edge in a hurry on this defense. Unlike its first three games, Oregon might not take its webbed foot off the gas once it builds a comfortable first-half lead.

What To Watch Out For: The Ducks’ speed is not relegated solely to the offense. They cover ground quickly on defense as well.

Arizona hasn’t seen a defense as quick to the ball as Oregon’s, even as Boyett recovers from knee surgery. Nick Aliotti’s crew is an attacking bunch that plays with passion, intensity and sudden quickness. The Cats could be in for a shock if someone can’t consistently get a helmet on DE Dion Jordan and linebackers Boseko Lokombo, Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso. Most of what the D has yielded through the first three games has occurred in garbage time, long after the outcome had been decided. If Arizona can’t put the Ducks defenders on their heels early, this game might be out of reach before halftime.

What Will Happen: Oregon wants to make a simple statement at Autzen Stadium Saturday night—nice start, Arizona, but you still have a very long way to go.

The Wildcats are going to make more noise this fall, but in Week 4, they’ll be drowned out by the locals in Eugene. All signs point to the Arizona defense getting badly exploited on Saturday night. The unit isn’t very good, and certainly not talented enough to slow down Mariota, Barner and Thomas. The Ducks have been a machine on offense for years, plugging in athletes and watching them flourish. Oregon is going to pounce on Arizona from the opening kickoff, robbing it of whatever confidence it took on the flight. Scott will pad his numbers in the second half, but it won’t make a difference in the outcome of a one-sided game.

CFN Prediction: Oregon 52 … Arizona 25
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Oregon -23.5 O/U: 77.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Ray Lewis: A Football Life, 1 – Frankenweenie): 4