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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Points of debate

Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Wildcats took on the Washington State Cougars Saturday November 7, 2009 at Arizona Stadium. Score at the half: Arizona 34, WSU 0
Colin Darland
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Wildcats took on the Washington State Cougars Saturday November 7, 2009 at Arizona Stadium. Score at the half: Arizona 34, WSU 0

Editor’s Note: Saturday’s match-up between the Arizona football team and No. 11 Oregon is a big contest in more ways than one. The Arizona Daily Wildcat’s Brian Kimball and the Oregon Daily Emerald’s Lucas Clark discuss some of the storylines surrounding the Pacific 10 Conference clash.

Lucas Clark: All season long I’ve been comparing this year’s Oregon Duck football team to that of the national title contender in 2007 when Heisman Trophy-hopeful Dennis Dixon was running the zone-read offense with pure elegance. And while the Ducks are no longer in the top-10 and battling for a shot at the BCS National Title game, they are still fighting to win out and claim their first Pac-10 title since 2001. Every Oregon fan dreadfully remembers that Thursday night in Tucson, Ariz., when Dixon hit the turf with his season-ending knee injury, which to me makes this year’s match-up that much more intriguing. Oregon has proven twice now that it can bounce back from a tough loss as it defeated ASU 44-21 last weekend, but the Ducks are 2-2 on the road this season and are definitely not going to overlook the talented Wildcat attack — which ranks second in the conference in both passing yards per game (242.1) and total offensive yards per game (429.2).

Brian Kimball: It’s true that Arizona’s high-flying offense has ranked near the top of the Pac-10 for the majority of the 2009 season, but the Wildcats have sputtered a bit during recent games. Despite beating UCLA 27-13, Arizona’s five-turnover performance kept the Bruins in the game for longer than they should have been. Even after the 48-7 blow-out win against Washington State the following week, UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said he didn’t think the offense really got into any sort of groove. As evidenced by a sloppy performance during last week’s 24-16 loss to California, Arizona still hasn’t been able to correct whatever the problem might be. But after receiving news that ESPN’s “”College GameDay”” will be in Tucson this weekend, the team was as amped up as I have seen all season long. Maybe that — along with all the Senior Day festivities that will take place during Saturday’s contest against the Ducks — will breathe new life into the Wildcats.

LC: “”GameDay”” definitely brings a different feel to the entire weekend when it comes to college football, and no one understands that more than the Ducks who blew-out the visiting USC Trojans on Halloween night. But after Oregon’s loss to Stanford two weeks ago, I would be surprised to see anything other than a fiery start from the Ducks’ versatile offense. First-year head coach Chip Kelly is constantly reiterating how important it is to get off to a fast start in every conference game, which often means a heavy dose of redshirt freshman running back LaMichael James. James has rushed for 1,193 yards and 11 touchdowns on just 171 carries — almost 100 carries less than Pac-10 leader Toby Gerhart with 1,395 yards on 262 carries — and has provided junior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli with some freedom in the passing game, something that was evidently lacking in the early season.

BK: LaMichael James has been difficult for most teams to stop so far this season as the diminutive tail back has rushed for more than 100 yards in seven of his nine starts. However, Arizona might be equipped to slow down James as the Wildcats were able to contain another small running back from the state of Oregon earlier in the year. Arizona held Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers to 85 yards on 16 carries in a 37-32 UA win in Corvallis, Ore. The Wildcats’ main concern regarding the Ducks’ offense will likely be quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. Last season in Eugene, Masoli torched the Wildcats for 298 yards through the air and another 89 yards rushing and accounted for five of the Ducks seven touchdowns in the 55-45 UO win. This time around, Arizona should be better prepared for the vaunted Oregon offensive attack.

LC: There’s no question that this year’s contest will likely result in another shootout between two strong offenses, but the defensive side of the ball is where the game will likely be decided. Oregon enters the game with the top-ranked scoring defense (20.9 ppg) and pass defense (181.3 ypg) in the Pac-10, and considering that it has been without preseason All-American Walter Thurmond III and senior Willie Glasper in the secondary shows how talented the Ducks’ young defense actually is. Sophomore defensive back Javes Lewis leads the team with 66 tackles on the year and fellow defensive back freshman John Boyett ranks second with 62. Oregon was able to contain Cal’s Kevin Riley and USC’s Matt Barkley through the air, but redshirt sophomore Nick Foles and the Wildcat passing attack will be yet another tough test for the Ducks.

BK: The Ducks faced an offense like Arizona’s once during the season — Stanford — and Oregon doesn’t need to be reminded how that game turned out in Palo Alto, Calif. As you said, Arizona ranks second in the Pac-10 in passing offense and the team also ranks third in rushing offense (187.1 ypg). And the Wildcats have put up a lot of those numbers with banged up skill-position players. Junior running back Nic Grigsby has finally recovered from a nagging shoulder injury and junior wide out Delashaun Dean is back at 100 percent after nursing a slew of injuries throughout the year. The bulk of Arizona’s offensive troubles this season have come in the redzone as the team has typically been forced to settle for field goals, hence the squad’s 30.4 points per game average that ranks fifth in the Pac-10. Arizona plays better at home — the Wildcats are unbeaten in Tucson this season — and the similarities this week’s contest has with the Stanford-UO game can’t be ignored.

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