Scouting report: Oregon Ducks

This weekend the Cats square off against the undefeated Oregon Ducks. The Ducks are coming off of a lackluster win over Utah State while the Cats are nursing the wounds of a 48-21 thrashing by Washington State.

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On paper the Oregon Ducks are the best team Arizona will face all year. The Ducks are undefeated but haven't always put the best effort forward.

"Oregon has played to the highest level necessary for them to be undefeated at this point," Arizona coach John Mackovic said. "Not to be unfair, but they haven't played at the same level for all of their games as they did against Wisconsin. We haven't played at the same level for that matter. Oregon is a really good team. They see this as a key Pac-10 game, so they will be ready to play like that. Their very best play will be on display Saturday, so we have to raise our level of play this week."

Any analysis of the Ducks has to start with quarterback Joey Harrington. Although Harrington probably isn't in position to win the Heisman, he has done nothing to diminish his draft stock or his chances of being All-conference.

"He doesn't quit," Mackovic said. "He has the poise, confidence, courage and toughness to stand in the pocket and deliver the ball. They have a different kind of attack, and they do a good job with play action. We have to make sure that we do not give him some of the big plays, and we have to keep constant pressure on him."

Pressuring Harrington will be difficult. The Oregon offensive line has done a great job protecting their marquee player. On average Harrington is sacked every 32 passes or so. In addition Arizona is a bit thin on the defensive line. Defensive end Alex Luna is still recovering from knee surgery and could be limited. Another defensive end, Fata Avegalio is getting back in the swing of things after missing two games with a dislocated elbow.

Another key player to contain will be running back Maurice Morris. Morris is one of the Pac-10's best rusher and must be salivating after the performance Dave Minnich had against the Cats. Morris may not have as many yards as you'd expect from a top tier runner, but opposing defenses have gambled to limit his effectiveness.

"Maurice Morris is not getting all of the yards because opposing defenses have stacked the deck to take him out of play," Mackovic explained. "He is just waiting to break loose, and he is a great all-purpose back."

Harrington has other offensive weapons in addition to Morris. Tennessee transfer Ontario Smith has stepped in to help take the load off of Morris. When they go to the air Harrington looks to wideout Keenan Howry and tight end Justin Peelle.

"Justin Peelle is the best tight end in college football. Nobody runs routes better than he does, and you don't want to try to cover him one-on-one."

The defense is the team's weakness. That can be expected when you are replacing seven starters. The strength of the defense is the corner backs. Rashad Bauman and Steve Smith are great cover corners who can take the pressure off of the rest of the defense.

"Oregon also has the top cornerback tandem in the conference, and the safeties do a nice job of helping in the coverages."

The defensive front gives a variety of looks. They stunt and move, and try to disguise their blitzes. After watching Washington State pressure Jason Johnson, one can expect the Ducks to come after the Arizona quarterback.

"They are very active up front, and the linebackers are real blitzers," Mackovic said.

Although the defense is good, they are actually giving up more yards than the potent offense has gained. That's the bad news, the good news for Duck fans is that they have yet to be outscored.

OUTLOOK: Arizona can beat the Ducks, but they will need to play near perfect on both sides of the ball. Last season they played them tough on the Ducks' home field. Oregon is very good and if Arizona gives them anything they will take it. Washington State exposed a lot of weaknesses in the Cats and you can bet the Ducks have taken notes. Arizona will move the ball, but so will Oregon. In the end the Ducks have too many weapons.

OREGON 33, Arizona 24


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