Thursday night football on ESPN will showcase the PAC-10—and their national title contendor, the Oregon Ducks. The Arizona Wildcats will be coming off a bye, and for a team with a losing record, they have a lot of upside to them.
Defensively, the Ducks' biggest weakness is that they give up yards, specifically passing yards. While they haven't been allowing many points, if they give up big yardage to the Tuitama in the air, then the game could turn into a shootout. The Wildcats quarterback really can light it up if you give him time; he can pick apart a zone and can also find the single coverage when the Ducks go to man coverage, and deliver good throws to those receivers.
They key for Oregon? Put pressure on Tuitama.
Tuitama has negative 141 rushing yards on the year. Nick Reed, Jeremy Gibbs, and Kenny Rowe will have to bring the pressure all game long.
Oregon's D-line could be the biggest factor in this game. In a blowout last year in Autzen stadium, the Catz put up huge numbers on the ground with running back Chris Henry.
Oregon's line will have to get into the backfield and disrupt Tuitama or the secondary could be exposed. Last week against the Sun Devils, the Ducks came up with nine sacks—Reed had three and half of those.
Arizona is coming into this game having won two games in a row for the first time all season. One underrated element of Thursday night football on ESPN is that the players know the nation is watching. Defenses specifically come out fired up, giving the corners and safeties for Arizona the opportunity to be playmakers under the Tucson lights.
To the Oregon wide receivers: you must run hard routes. That means no plays off all night.
The only way Dennis Dixon might struggle in this game is if he is intercepted early. One sloppy route and a defensive back jumps it, then it could be pick six—since Oregon throws a lot of short routes, unders, slants, etc.
Heisman Hopeful Dennis Dixon looks to continue his success against Arizona. He himself will tell you its going to take a team effort though in Arizona.
With the week off, hopefully Oregon can stay focused and keep the mindset that each week's game is bigger than the last. The only ranking that will ever matter is that which comes out the first week of December 2007.
This saturday, all Oregon fans will have to watch is Illinois @ Ohio State and Louisiana Tech @ LSU. The Latter has virtually no chance—but this is college football, so never say never.
Illinois has a great running back in Rashard Mendenhall, and a superstar quarterback in Juice Williams. Last year in Columbus, the Buckeyes beat the Illini 13-7 in a slug-it-out style game. Illinois could be more of a fight than Wisconsin this week, when they lead 17-10 in the third quarter over Ohio State.
Ron Zook has the Illini thinking upset this weekend...12:30 PT on ABC.
Going into the weekend, here is the most accurate power rankings we could conjure up:
1. Tie Between LSU and OREGON
Of the one-loss teams, LSU has played the most ranked schools, although they have had to win games late in the 4th quarter. Oregon has handled opponents with ease, and has looked impressive in every win—beating up on teams they're supposed to, and dominating big games (@ Michigan, USC, Arizona State). If these teams both have one loss at the end of the year, it will be a shame not to see them square off.
3. Ohio State
Tthe Buckeyes are undefeated in a marginal BCS conference. Two teams in the Big Ten have lost to 1-AA opponents. If Ohio State goes into Ann Arbor and can't equal the Ducks' 39-7 demolishing of the Wolverines, then you really can't offer any sensible explanation for how the Buckeyes should be ahead of Oregon. Both teams played Washington on the road, and won by 19 and 21 in the Ducks' favor. But that was the highlight of Ohio State's non-conference resume. They are number 3 for now.
This might raise some-eyebrows, but since their only loss to Oklahoma in Norman, Missouri has been destroying teams. Their offense is one of the best in the country, and Chase Daniel deserves an invite to New York. I anticipate this team winning out—that's why I have them ahead of Oklahoma.
5. Arizona State
Nobody was going into Autzen last week and coming out with a win against the Ducks. Arizona State showed they could, however, play with elite competition, and moved the ball on the Ducks through the air effectively. There were some bright spots in the 12 point loss.
And thats my top 5. Beat that if you can!