After a perfect non-conference slate, Oregon begins Pac-12 play looking like the clear favorite in a struggling league.
The Ducks (3-0) won hard-fought decisions over a pair of current Top 25 teams — perennial contender Ohio State and a feisty Fresno State bunch — before routing FCS opponent Stony Brook. Their Pac-12 opener figures to be more like the latter, as Arizona faces a major rebuilding project in Jedd Fisch's first season as head coach.
The Wildcats (0-3) opened with a promising Week 1 effort against BYU, but have since endured a blowout loss to San Diego State and the program's first defeat against FCS member Northern Arizona since the Great Depression.
Arizona at No. 3 Oregon
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 25 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Oregon -28.5
When Arizona Has the Ball
Arizona comes to Eugene ranked No. 120 nationally in scoring offense, and only Colorado and Kansas have been more anemic among Power 5 programs.
The Wildcats' struggles are owed in part to quarterback issues, with neither Gunner Cruz nor Will Plummer playing particularly consistent in multiple appearances. USF transfer Jordan McCloud got an opportunity against Northern Arizona, but with limited success.
UA's offensive line has given up 10 sacks, which does nothing to help the uncertain quarterback situation, and has hamstrung the run game to the tune of 2.8 yards per carry.
Oregon's rushing defense, meanwhile, has been excellent despite All-American defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and standout linebacker Justin Flowe being sidelined since Week 1. The Ducks are allowing just 3.5 yards per carry.
When Oregon Has the Ball
Head coach Mario Cristobal came to Oregon as offensive coordinator, having previously overseen the line at Alabama. His pedigree working with the front five has translated well in Eugene, and this year's group has looked especially dominant.
The Ducks' offensive line pushed Ohio State around and opened holes for ball carriers to run wild — to the tune of 7.1 yards per carry. CJ Verdell is averaging a hair below six yards per rushing attempt, Travis Dye has three rushing touchdowns and just below 200 yards, and quarterback Anthony Brown is averaging 40 yards per game on the ground.
Arizona defensive coordinator Don Brown operates a scheme heavy on pressure and reliant on swarming to the ball, but he inherited an undersized and inexperienced group that's ill-equipped to handle Oregon's physicality and depth.
The meat of Oregon's Pac-12 schedule lies ahead with road trips to Stanford and UCLA in October. In the meantime, struggling Arizona should not put up much resistance in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
The Wildcats have been on a consistent slide since late 2018, the last time they beat Oregon, while the Ducks have been on a meteoric rise. Oregon should be able to put this win away early.
Prediction: Oregon 45, Arizona 10
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— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45