Arizona headed to Oregon last season with hopes of an upset and left with the realization that the Ducks were just on a different level, as they won 49-0 and forced five turnovers.
This season is much of the same, except Arizona will take on the role of the underdog at home as it once again looks for the upset.
When Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez brings up Oregon, he is quick to point to two factors that he believes makes the Ducks so strong.
“There’s so many things,” Rodriguez said. “Certainly their team speed and more than speed, their athleticism. I think you talk about the guys in the open field; they can tackle in the open field, make you miss in the open field. Their athleticism is at every position and it is pretty impressive.”
Despite that fact, Oregon coach Mark Helfrich believes that Arizona will be playing up the revenge factor for what happened last season.
"Coming off a shutout, you always want to redeem yourself," Helfrich said. "I think there is some familiarity, but also a ton of frustration on their part, a ton of red zone trips last year with missed opportunities. They'll be fired up and dialed in."
If Arizona is going to have any chance of defeating Oregon, it is going to have to start with containing quarterback Marcus Mariota. So far this season, Mariota has thrown for 2,819 yards with 25 touchdowns and, in a remarkable number, no interceptions.
“A lot of times guys are so wide open, but I think more than anything it is his accuracy,” Rodriguez said of Mariota’s success. “A lot of times interception come when maybe a guy can only get one hand on it or a ball is tipped or something like that.
“First, he is making good decisions and secondly, he is really, really accurate. Then the third thing is of course that his arm strength is so good that if it is a tight window he can get it in there.”
Oregon’s offensive weapons go far beyond Mariota, but the Ducks will have to contend with Arizona’s as well. It is difficult to imagine the Wildcats having anything close to a successful day offensively without major help from Ka’Deem Carey.
"One of the best in the country without a doubt,” Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. “I'm not saying that because we play them this week, he's really good.
"He's shifty, he can bounce it outside, he can change direction. Not only is he a strong inside runner, he can you miss in space, he hits holes fast. I'm impressed with Ka'Deem Carey."
Helfrich also joked about Carey making a quarterback’s job easier because of how good he is each game.
"Carey and me would be a dynamic duo, because I'd hand it to him and get out of the way," he said.
Defensively, Oregon may be the fastest team Arizona will see this season. Whether it is in the secondary with Ifo Ekpre-Olomu or on the defensive line with Tony Washington, the Ducks’ defense is aggressive and impressive.
“Oregon will blitz them from everywhere,” Rodriguez said. “They are a big edge pressure team, they will blitz from the outside. The key to that is they have guys that can cover on the back end and their backers are really fast, so they get through there fast. Oregon might be the fastest team in the country on both sides.”
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez does not necessarily believe that the Wildcats will have to play a flawless game in order to win, but he also realizes that they may need some help from the Ducks.
“We can’t certainly put a lot of imperfect scenarios in it,” he said. “We can’t play poorly and win, that’s for sure. We showed that last week. Do we have to be perfect?
“No, but we have to have some things go right and they have to help us a little bit, which can happen. We don’t have to play perfect, but we have to play really hard and execute and then hope they help us.”
Matchups to Watch:
Arizona offensive line vs. Oregon linebackers: Oregon is going to be aggressive with its linebackers, especially Derrick Malone. B.J. Denker is probably better when he is able to roll out, but he still needs some time. In order to make sure the offense is successful, the line is going to not only have to get that initial push, but the push at the next level as well.
Arizona receivers vs. Oregon secondary: Arizona’s receivers had major difficulty getting open against Washington State. They have no choice but to play better if Arizona is going to have any chance of beating Oregon. The Ducks’ secondary is as physical as it gets and Arizona’s receivers are going to have to match that.
Oregon running backs vs. Arizona linebackers: Oregon makes nearly every team it faces miss in the open field. The UA linebackers have to have gap discipline and tackle on the first opportunity. If not, it is going to be a long day.