Wildcats look for the upset

Arizona will take on Oregon on Thursday night in the second Pac-12 game of the season for both teams. Read on to find out about the matchup, including where the teams stand with injuries, where Oregon has struggled, and more.

Thursday night in Eugene, Oregon and the Arizona Wildcats will have the full attention of the college football world.

Two weeks ago, three quarters into Arizona's game against California, it looked like the Wildcats would be entering the match-up with the Ducks with a 0-1 conference record.

Instead, Arizona rallied behind a 47-yard Hail Mary pass as time expired to head into Autzen Stadium with a perfect record.

Oregon will be led primarily by junior quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Heisman frontrunner has been at the top of his game so far this season, leading the nation in passing efficiency. Mariota has the ability to beat a defense in a multitude of ways and has shown it throughout his time at Oregon.

While he did not have his best game against Arizona last season, Mariota has yet to throw an interception this year, but has thrown for 13 touchdowns.

“It always helps when you come out firing on all cylinders, but it is a 60 minute game, sometimes longer,” Arizona senior Jared Tevis said. “We have to try to keep the pressure on him all game and just try to contain him throughout the whole game.

“He is a playmaker, but as long as we are getting after it and doing what we need to do, we can try our best to contain him.”

Arizona's answer to Mariota comes in the form of another Hawaiian, Anu Solomon. The freshman has been up and down for the Wildcats so far this season, but has come through when Arizona has needed it the most, including the fourth quarter comeback against Cal.

"Anu is very athletic," Oregon Defensive Coordinator Don Pellum said. "He’s in a system where it takes advantage of his abilities and moves the pocket. He escapes and the receivers keep working and he completes balls down field.

"I think their offense is very complete. I think they have a very solid offensive line that does a great job of blocking at the point of attack and their backs do a nice job of working behind it and getting vertical when they see the seams."

Pellum praised the play of the Arizona offensive line, something that may not be said for Oregon's due to injuries and inexperience.

While left tackle Jake Fisher was listed on the depth chart, he is still questionable to play, which would mean that true freshman Tyrell Crosby would get the start at right tackle with junior Matt Pierson moving over to the left side of the line.

Arizona could use this to its advantage, similar to the way that Washington State did two weeks ago in Pullman. The Cougars mixed strong line play with blitzes to pressure Mariota and were able to keep the game close throughout.

Pressuring Solomon is one way that Oregon can try to slow down the Arizona offense, but isn't necessarily the answer for the Ducks.

"I think when there are opportunities to rush the passer you have to be prepared, but the thing you have to be prepared for when facing (Solomon) or Marcus Mariota, you have to be very smart with how you are attacking him because if you miss those guys they can go the distance," Pellum said.

"We have to do a great job of containing the run and pass and when we have the opportunities have to try to get after him."

With two high powered offenses and two defenses that are still trying to find themselves in the young season, the game on Thursday could go any number of ways.

Will Arizona's defense step up against the Ducks?

Will Oregon's secondary limit the Wildcats' passing attack?

One thing is for sure: only one team will leave undefeated.

Players to watch:

#8, QB Marcus Mariota: This one is a no brainer. Mariota is going to be the key for Oregon's offense. If he struggles, the offense will struggle. Arizona could use an early turnover to build momentum against him.

#14, DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu:The senior defensive back is easily the most talented defender for the Ducks and will likely get plenty of chances to make his mark on the game on Thursday.

#21, RB Royce Freeman: The true freshman got his first start last time out and has been a star for Oregon through four games. While Arizona needs to focus on Mariota, it can't forget about Freeman.

Keys to the game:

  • Blitz:Arizona will need to get pressure on Mariota and the rest of the backfield as much as possible. The offensive line has had some struggles and the Wildcats need to exploit that.

  • Move the ball: It may seem like Arizona needs to score touchdowns as much as possible against Oregon, and it does need to score, but long methodical drives keeps the defense on its heels and makes the Oregon offense watch from the sidelines.

  • Beware the third quarter:Oregon has outscored opponents 42-3 in the third quarter this season. Both head coaches make great adjustments at halftime, but it is important for the Wildcats not to lose control if it's a close game.

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