When the Oregon Ducks play host to the Arizona Wildcats this Saturday night in Eugene, don't be surprised if the two tempo-based offenses push the final score total above 100 points. Oregon is averaging 86 plays a game. Arizona is pushing that pace to an astonishing 93 plays a contest. Both offenses want to go fast, and with that approach to the game, expect to see plenty of scoring opportunities.
Part of the reason Arizona has taken so quickly to Rich Rodriguez's system is the Wildcats are no strangers to tempo. In the three seasons prior to RichRod's arrival, the team went from 70 to 73 to 76 plays per game in 2011.
Now? The Wildcats have simply cranked the volume to the proverbial 11, going full tempo at all times. It also helps that under Rich Rodriguez, the first downs are up to 36 a game, from last seasons 25-per-game average. More first downs means extended drives. Extended drives means more plays and more plays means more points.
And more points is exactly what we should expect Saturday—from both teams. Oregon is fifth in the nation, putting up 54 points a game. The Wildcats are seven spots back at 12, averaging just over 46 points a game.
In six games, the two teams have combined to score 41 touchdowns. Get ready for fireworks, as Arizona brings their fourth overall offensive attack to match up against Oregon's seventh-ranked total offense.
From a schematic point of view, the schemes are similar. They both are heavily predicated on getting teams running sideways in order to create vertical seams—vertical seams through which guys like De'Anthony Thomas, Kenjon Barner and Ka'Deem Carey skate for big yards. One big difference, and something that having an experienced Matt Scott provides the Wildcats, is the balance Rich Rodriguez's attack brings to the table.
That's not to say that Oregon's redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota cannot throw. Chip Kelly actually helped his first-year starter by forcing him to throw more than he ran in the early going as a way to gain experience through the air.
The Ducks can throw the ball, but unfortunately for most teams, they don't have to in order to be a potent offense. They currently sit behind just Air Force, Army and Georgia Tech in the rushing rankings.
One thing to pay attention to in this ball game: The Ducks are playing without John Boyett. The senior safety announced a week ago he would be out for the season following a nagging knee injury that ultimately required surgery. Arizona likes to take shots down the field with Scott, and if the Wildcats can get the run game working, there may be opportunities deep.
Now, to be fair to the defenses, this 100-point-fest that some folks are looking for is not a given. Unlike most teams the Ducks and Wildcats will play, this week of practice, the scout teams and team periods will be very close approximations of their opponent's system. This won't be Stanford's plodding personnel pretending to be Oregon or Oklahoma State's pass-happy gang pretending to run the ball.
The speed of the offenses, from a tempo standpoint, will not be a shock to the defensive system. Expect plenty of base calls on both sides of the ball and very few risks in the form of blitzes or exotic looks.
Ultimately, we are looking at a game that, 100 points or not, has the potential to be very good if both offenses are firing on all cylinders.