College Football Picks Week 4: Oregon Ducks vs. Arizona Wildcats Matchup Edges

Alex Shoemaker@!/MrAlexShoemakerAnalyst IISeptember 24, 2011

College Football Picks Week 4: Oregon Ducks vs. Arizona Wildcats Matchup Edges

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    No. 10 Oregon Ducks vs. Arizona Wildcats

    Kickoff time: 7:15 PM PDT

    Tucson, AZ

    These two Pac-12 teams start their conference play in a game with huge importance for both programs.

    Oregon comes into this matchup as hot as any team in the country, ready to make a surge back into national championship contention.

    Arizona, on the other hand, comes into Saturday’s matchup with back-to-back losses to top 10 teams (Oklahoma State & Stanford).

    When you look at the Ducks over the years, they have been near the top in the country in rushing, led by their dynamic running back, LaMichael James.

    The Wildcats, however, have been loaded on defense each year under head coach Mike Stoops, with this campaign maybe being the exception.

    With so much talent from both teams, and so much on the line, expect this to be one of the best games of the college football weekend.

Oregon Passing Attack vs. Arizona Pass Defense

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    While the Ducks rank near the top in points per game (4th) and yards per game (6th), their offensive production is a bit misleading.

    The grand majority of Oregon’s production has come against a depleted Nevada team and FCS opponent, Missouri State. Against the LSU Tigers on opening weekend, the Ducks racked up most of their yards late in the game when the outcome was pretty decided.

    The Ducks rank 32nd in yards passing, and are led by their junior quarterback Darron Thomas (741 yards, 10 TDs, an interception). Several of the Ducks’ wide receivers (Josh Huff, Justin Hoffman) have been plagued with injuries, though; bringing down the passing attack.

    Arizona’s secondary is just plain bad. Credit it to injuries and huge turnover if it makes you feel better, but this might be the worst pass defense in Mike Stoops’ tenure as head coach.

    Expect the Ducks to rack up yardage through the air.

    Advantage: Oregon

Oregon Rushing Attack vs. Arizona Run Defense

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    The Ducks, even with their offensive line struggles, have one of the best rushing attacks in college football… again. Led by Heisman trophy contender LaMichael James (325 yards rushing 5 TDs), the Ducks rank 5th in the country in rushing per game.

    Oregon also has a true freshman back by the name of De’Anthony Thomas who has been a nightmare for defenses (when he isn’t fumbling). Thomas has been the second leading rusher and receiver thus far for the Ducks.

    Meanwhile, the Wildcats are not that much better at their run defense than they are at attempting to stop the pass. Ranked No. 92 in defending the run (519 yards in three games), the Wildcats will have their hands full slowing down the Ducks offense.

    Advantage: Oregon

Arizona Passing Attack vs. Oregon Pass Defense

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    The biggest bright spot for the Wildcats is their passing attack. Led by senior quarterback Nick Foles, the Wildcats give the Arizona offense something to lean on.

    The Wildcats also have one of the top wide receivers in the country in Juron Criner for Foles to go to. What makes Arizona’s passing attack so great is that their stable of wide receivers is deep.

    The Wildcats have Dan Buckner as well to add to the attack, and I’m not sure if Anthony Gildon or Cliff Harris can combine to shut down these receivers.

    Advantage: Arizona

Arizona Rushing Attack vs. Oregon Run Defense

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    It shocks me with how good Arizona’s running back, Keola Antolin, is; yet they rank 116th in the country, only averaging 55.7 yards per game. The failure of the running game is almost entirely the terrible play by the offensive line. This unit had to replace all five starters this season, and it’s really showing.

    While the Arizona offensive line is horrible, the Ducks’ defensive line is not much better. The Ducks rank 107th in run defense, not making them much better than the Wildcats.

    Expect the Wildcats to pass the ball (so far at a 2-1 ratio) all game long.

    Advantage: Oregon

Chip Kelly vs. Mike Stoops

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    With Mike Stoops at Arizona, you have one of the top defensive minds in college football.

    In Chip Kelly at Oregon, you have one of the top offensive minds in the country.

    These Pac-12 rivals have been a part of some great shootouts over the past few seasons (2007, 2008, 2009).

    Each coach controls their respective unit, and the head-to-head matchup of Oregon’s offense against Arizona’s defense will be the key to the game.

    Can Oregon continue their success?

    Advantage: Oregon

Game Preview

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    Oregon Key to the Game: Secondary

    Arizona has one of the best passing attacks in college football, and the Ducks have to stop Nick Foles and Arizona’s great receivers. 

    Arizona Key to the Game: The Crowd

    To keep the game close, the crowd will have to play a factor. The Ducks have a young offensive line, with a string of dumb false start, delay of game and clipping penalties. The crowd will have to play a factor.

    Oregon 46

    Arizona 28

    Game MVP: LaMichael James