Ducks look to continue their push for the College Football Playoff at home against the Wildcats
With its College Football Playoff ranking climbing to No. 6, Oregon is right in the mix for a spot in the final four. The Ducks can sew up the Pac-12 North division title on Saturday at home against Arizona and move one win closer to the playoff.
Saturday's game offers a shot at revenge after the Wildcats routed the Ducks last season in Tucson. UA comes stumbling into this year's encounter, losing four straight, including an awful defensive showing on Nov. 2 against Oregon State. The midseason firing of Marcel Yates did not produce an immediate turnaround for the defense, and Arizona's hopes of a bowl game likely disappeared.
Expect Arizona to look toward its future in the coming weeks, meaning more reps for freshman quarterback Grant Gunnell. Oregon, on the other hand, has everything to play for in the present.
Arizona at Oregon
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 16 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Oregon -27.5
When Arizona Has the Ball
Arizona's offense has had an odd 2019, to say the least. Quarterback Khalil Tate appeared to be returning to 2017 rushing form early in the campaign, but a hamstring injury in September seemed to slow the dual-threat playmaker. His play since has been wildly up-and-down, and Kevin Sumlin has gone more to freshman Gunnell in recent weeks.
Gunnell has a promising pocket presence with some mobility. As attention turns to 2020, Gunnell could see more reps. The wide receiving corps is young, and building chemistry with them will set the stage for next season.
In the meantime, Arizona faces an Oregon defense that, outside of Utah, may be the best in the Pac-12. The Ducks are athletic and physical across all three phases, and coordinator Andy Avalos' pass rush should cause problems for whoever is quarterbacking Arizona.
When Oregon Has the Ball
Justin Herbert's numbers this season are not eye-popping, but the veteran Oregon quarterback has played lights out. He's efficient, he's smart with the ball, and of late, he has a big-play threat in receiver Juwan Johnson. With reliable speedster Jaylon Redd, the Ducks are cultivating a solid passing attack despite the loss of tight end Jacob Breeland to injury.
Oregon has gone with a multiple-man rotation at running back. Operating behind one of the nation's best offensive lines, CJ Verdell, Cyrus Habibi-Likio and Travis Dye have all made an impact.
Against an Arizona offense that has been flattened in all phases for the past four outings, expect the Ducks to establish the run with some chunk plays early after physically battering the Wildcats up front.
There probably isn't a greater mismatch on the Pac-12 calendar for the remainder of the season. The Autzen Stadium crowd will be raucous, welcoming back the Ducks for the first time in almost a month, with a Playoff berth at stake. Add the revenge factor, and Oregon faithful will be eager to see a stomping. Expect the Ducks to oblige.
Arizona has no answer for Oregon's offense, so even if the UA offense conjures up some magic, the Wildcats cannot keep pace.
Prediction: Oregon 52, Arizona 20
— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.