Oregon Offensive Preview

Arizona will travel to Oregon on Thursday night for a matchup with the Ducks. Read on to find out more about the Oregon offense, including a Heisman frontrunner, the Ducks' weak point on offense, and more.

In the second Thursday night game of the season, Arizona will face off against Pac-12 powerhouse Oregon.

The second-ranked Ducks have been able to do it all this season on offense, struggling only once, in a road showdown with Washington State. Oregon is averaging 48.5 points per game while gaining 555 yards per contest.

That kind of firepower isn't easy to come by, but junior quarterback Marcus Mariota makes it look easy at times. The Heisman hopeful has completed 74 percent of his passes on the season for 1,135 yards through the air. Mariota has thrown 13 touchdowns, but has yet to throw a single interception.

While Oregon has downplayed the revenge aspect for a 42-16 drubbing at the hands of Arizona a year ago, Mariota certainly has a bone to pick with the Wildcats. In the first ten games of the season last year, Mariota had a spotless interception record. With two in Tucson, the quarterback began a tailspin that saw him throw five in the last three games of the year.

Even when Mariota isn't throwing the football, he is still one of the most dangerous threats on the field. While he hasn't had spectacular numbers running the football, the junior holds the second spot in the rushing yards per game category for the Ducks with 53.5 per game and three scores.

The leading rusher for Oregon is true freshman Royce Freeman. Despite only getting his first start in the last contest against Washington State, Freeman has been a solid playmaker for the Ducks. He is averaging 65 yards on the ground and is tied for the team lead with five touchdowns (all on the ground).

Freeman isn't the only rushing threat for the Ducks, as they will use a running back by committee for the most part with Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall getting carries as well. Tyner averages 44 yards on the ground with Marshall getting 50 per game. Both have a single rushing touchdown.

In addition, Marshall joins two wide receivers, Devon Allen and Keanon Lowe to create a trio of dangerous receiving threats. Marshall leads the team in receptions with 18, but Allen is by far the most dangerous, with 299 yards receiving and five touchdowns on the season. Allen can hurt teams in multiple ways and has shown it so far.

Lowe is third in receiving, but has still done plenty of damage in the young season, grabbing 13 balls for 221 yards and three trips to the end zone.

Things aren't all great for the Ducks this season, though, as the offensive line has been hit with a series of misfortune. Through injuries and depth depletion, Oregon has had to make a patchwork line, starting a true freshman, Tyrell Crosby, at right guard. Cameron Hunt will get the start at right guard after getting a few starts last season and entering the season at second on the depth chart.

The real key to Oregon's offensive line success is whether injured tackle Jake Fisher will be back from his injury and ready to play. If he is unable to go, the Ducks will be starting junior Matt Pierson, who only just made his first start in the last game against the Cougars.

If the offensive line can hold up against the Wildcats, it is safe to say that the Ducks will put points on the board. The game may turn into a shoot out, but that's a position that Arizona has been in before.

Players to watch:

#8, QB Marcus Mariota: The junior may be the best quarterback in the country. Mariota doesn't make many mistakes and knows how to turn a tight window into a big play for his team. He should be sharp on Thursday and looking for his Heisman moment.

#85, TE Pharaoh Brown: Arizona has had trouble with tight ends in the past and it has been easy for the Wildcats to have a few breakout plays to change the tide of the game. Brown has two touchdowns already this season and if he gets overlooked at all, he could have a big play coming his way.

#5, WR Devon Allen: This one is easy because Allen is by far the biggest threat to Arizona. The Wildcats had a difficult time stopping Bryce Treggs or Chris Harper in the California game and I'm not sure that Allen will be any easier.

Keys to the Game:

  • Blitz: Arizona needs to put some sort of pressure on Mariota in the backfield. The offensive line has struggled at times, and there are some weak points. The Wildcats will need to exploit those to have a shot.

  • Force turnovers: The Wildcats haven't been great at getting the opponent to turn the ball over this season and Oregon has been great at holding onto it. If Arizona can flip field position with a big play, it could shift the momentum in Auzten Stadium.

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