The clear Heisman frontrunner, Mariota has completed 68 percent of his passes for 36 touchdowns and two interceptions.
In the first meeting between these two teams, Mariota threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns. They there is that he only gained one yard on the ground because the defense was able to put consistent pressure on him.
Make no mistake about it, Arizona is not going to shut down Mariota. However, if it can keep his numbers modest and make him earn that success, it will be a successful game for the Wildcats.
When looking at the numbers, there may not be another team that defended 5-foot-11, 229-pound freshman running back Royce Freeman as well as Arizona did.
The Wildcats held him to 85 yards on 19 carries and kept him from scoring as well. Since then, Freeman has put up some ridiculous game.
He ran for 121 yards and two scores against UCLA, 169 yards and four scores against Washington, and 135 yards last weekend against Oregon State. Simply put, there have not been many better running backs in the country than Freeman.
Sophomore Thomas Tyner has not played the last few weeks and is questionable for Friday’s game. Should he play, Tyner adds another element to the running game, but Arizona was able to hold him to 46 yards on ten carries.
Oregon’s running game gets a lot of attention and rightfully so, but the Ducks have plenty of weapons among their receivers as well.
Junior Byron Marshall leads Oregon with 56 receptions for 791 yards and five touchdowns. Against Arizona, Marshall was more of a possession receiver with six catches for 64 yards.
In addition to Marshall, one of Mariota’s primary targets will be 6-foot-5, 201-pound sophomore Dwayne Stanford. He had four catches for 74 yards in the first meeting and has five touchdowns since that game.
Freshman Devon Allen is the fastest of the bunch, catching five balls for 78 yards and a score against Arizona this season.
Although Allen has not had any big games since that meeting, his speed and overall athletic ability make him a dangerous target for Mariota.
The biggest question among the receivers is the status of 5-foot-9, 186-pound senior Keanon Lowe. He did not play against Oregon State last week, but odds are he will start and see plenty of time on Friday.
Also, keep an eye on 5-foot-8, 170-pound freshman Charles Nelson. He only has ten catches on the season, but five of them have come in the past two weeks and four of those are touchdowns.
You probably know by now that Oregon’s offensive line is healthier than it was in the first meeting.
The most important addition is senior Jake Fischer at left tackle. He is considered to be one oft he best offensive linemen in the country and the line has been noticeably better since his return.
As for injuries, senior Hroniss Grasu may be Oregon’s second best offensive lineman, but he is doubtful with an ankle injury.
Players to Watch#8, QB Marcus Mariota: This goes without saying. He is going to get his, but if Arizona can at least keep him in check, the Wildcats’ chances of winning will increase a ton. #85, WR Dwayne Stanford: Mariota has been working well with Stanford and he put together a strong performance in the first meeting. Stanford is a big receiver, so Arizona needs to be careful here. #6, WR Charles Nelson: If you have four touchdowns in your past two games, you're doing something right. Arizona needs to be aware of Nelson, especially considering he is always one of the fastest guys on the field.
Keys to the Game:Contain the run: It’s remarkable that Arizona held the Ducks to 144 total yards rushing on 3.5 yards per carry in the first meeting. We will be really surprised if that happens again, but if Arizona can come close, it has a real chance in this thing. No big plays: This is a momentum offense. If the Ducks get one or two big plays, it usually turns into more. Arizona has to make Oregon sustain drives and truly earn it if the Ducks are going to score. No help: The Oregon offense is so good that it does not need any help. The defense needs to be careful of penalties and as Rodriguez consistently says, play a clean game.