Earlier today, we discussed the Arizona Wildcats and their prospects of pulling off what would be considered a substantial upset, despite the fact that they beat this Ducks team in their own building just over two months ago. As Oregon will tell you, a lot has changed since then.
Much like we did with the ‘Cats, we'll highlight five key components to Oregon winning the Pac-12 Championship and securing their spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff.
Unleash the Heisman
Barring disembodiment during the actual game itself, Marcus Mariota seems like a stone cold lock for the Heisman Trophy award this season. He has thrown for 36 touchdowns, rushed for 11, and even caught one, bringing his total to 48, all the while having thrown just two interceptions.
On October 2, he went 20-for-32 with 276 yards passing with two touchdowns, plus the receiving touchdown. By all means, this was a solid game. Yet, it was his third-lowest Passer Rating of the season (at UCLA and vs. Stanford were lower). In every game this season, he has thrown for at least two touchdowns, so that seems like a given. What will make the difference is if he throws for three or four, or even more, making it nearly impossible for Arizona to keep up offensively.
In each of his last four games, he has had at least one rushing touchdown. Last time against the ‘Cats, he had his second-lowest rushing total of the season, which was a whopping one yard. The game will come down to this: if Mariota goes wild, there's no hope for upsetting the Ducks.
Send the Hounds after Anu Solomon
To steal a quote from Remember the Titans, "You BLITZ all night!" Solomon is the equal of wounded prey coming into the eyesight of a predator. He can deny the extent of the injury, but it would beneficial for the Ducks to find out just how healed he is.
The offense for U of A will most likely consistent of the run game, but in those instances when Solomon takes the ball from the shotgun and tries to extend plays with his feet, the Ducks have to be there waiting. If they take away Solomon's ability to extend the play and move his feet, there isn't much chance the Wildcats will be able to score enough to keep up with Mariota and the offense.
Spread the Love
It has been the Ducks' MO for some time to deploy the best athletes in the country at the skills positions and let them wreak havoc on other teams defenses. To keep everyone happy and make sure they all stay fresh, the Ducks will need to distribute the ball all over the field.
The weapons are there to do it. From Royce Freeman and (maybe) Thomas Tyner (he is questionable with an ankle injury), to Byron Marshall and Devon Allen, to Dwayne Stanford and Keanon Lowe, this Oregon offense has been extremely productive in recent weeks. As a reminder, this is an offense that is averaging 539.5 yards per game.
Just Block, Baby
After having raved about the ability of the skill position players, it's time to give some love to the guys in the trenches. Especially considering the fact that they were single-handedly blamed for losing the game the last time out.
Senior Jake Fisher will return to the fold for this contest, allowing Mariota's blindside to not include objects like Scooby Wright III hands that force fumbles.
It sounds like a simple strategy, but all the Oregon offensive line has to do is not lose the game. As long as the Wildcats defense doesn't fly all-around them wreaking havoc, Mariota and his troops should take care of the rest.
Don't Forget October 2
A lot of teams will talk about how they want to "wipe the slate clean" or "move on" from their last defeat. In the case of the Ducks, to hell with that. They lost at home in front of their rabid crowd to a team they feel they shouldn't have lost to. And now, they face them again, but with a chance to play for a National Championship on the line. Lately, the Ducks have been close, but they haven't grabbed that golden prize. Upgraded facilities, fancy jerseys, and high-ranked recruiting classes are all fine and dandy, but eventually, you have to grab the brass ring.
If I'm the Ducks, I'm insulted that we're only two touchdown favorites. I'd want to bury U of A, leaving no doubt who the superior team is. That way the talk of the entire nation would be Jesus, girls and Marcus Mariota.