The Arizona Wildcats face what will probably be their most difficult game of the season on Saturday night. Ignoring the fact that the Oregon Ducks might just be the best team in the nation, UA is heading into hostile territory for their first road game of the year, and they're doing so with a young and inexperienced defense.
The odds are heavily stacked against Arizona this week. The odds makers in Vegas nearly had the Cats as four-touchdown underdogs when the week began. Just about no one in the country is giving them much of a chance, and that's with cause. This is a program that has won more games this year (three) than they did in the first two months of the season last year.
So what must Arizona do in Autzen Stadium to pull the huge upset?
Run, Don't Pass:
If Oregon has possession of the football all game, the Wildcats are going to get torched defensively. In order for the defense to have a chance, the offense needs to ensure they have plenty of time to rest and refocus on the sidelines. This means running the football early and often on Saturday night.
Ka'Deem Carey has emerged as one of the best tailbacks on the west coast this year. He's yet to face a defense as fast as Oregon's is, but he has the talent and ability to have a big game. It's imperative that the coaching staff feeds Carey, Daniel Jenkins and even Taimi Tutogi the football to not only eat up yardage, but also the clock.
This isn't to say that Matt Scott shouldn't air the ball out some against UO's battered secondary. He should. But when the game is still within reach and the offense is ahead of the chains, run the football.
The Wildcats were notoriously bad tacklers under the Mike Stoops regimen in Tucson. The tackling has improved greatly under Rich Rodriguez and the new coaching staff, but there have still been some ugly moments in the open field, particularly against the speed of Oklahoma State.
Arm tackles do not work against players as talented, fast and elusive as De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner are. If Arizona doesn't wrap up on these players, and in-turn allows them to break away when they should have been down for a minimal gain, the defense has no chance against the explosive Ducks. UO thrives when they're running at a furious pace; if they're breaking off double-digit gains all night, the game will be over before you can say Puddles The Duck.
Take some chances:
Arizona is playing on the road, in a hostile environment and against the No. 3 ranked squad in the nation. Quite honestly, it's tough to see them winning the track meet in Eugene for 60 minutes without a couple of huge breaks going their way. As the Wildcats take the field on Saturday night, they need to come out fearless and believing in what has worked this season.
Matt Scott has missed a couple of receivers down the field this season; if there's even the slightest of openings, let the ball fly. Perhaps even work in a couple of trick plays, whether it be a reverse, statue of liberty or flea flicker. You know Oregon is going to have something prepared for their opponents, and it's important UA takes some chances of their own.
I think Arizona is going to hold their own during the first half. The offense is explosive enough to put points on the board and the defense can be really good when they pressure the backfield.
This being said, it's just too tough to imagine the Wildcats hanging in for 60 minutes against the Ducks and their high-flying offensive attack. In the end, a couple of big plays late lead Oregon to a 52-38 win.
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