Not taking the Wildcats lightly

The Oregon Ducks (6-1, 3-1) continue to prepare to travel tomorrow to take on the Wildcats of the University of Arizona on Saturday. The Ducks can further strengthen their hold on a share of second place in the Pac-10 conference race with a win over the 1-5 Wildcats. With three straight wins, two being on the road, it might appear to some that this game will be a cinch for the high flying Ducks -- to some that is but not Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti.

(PHOTO) Arizona quarterback Richard Kovalcheck (8) is sacked by Stanford's Jon Alston (37) during the fourth quarter in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2005. Stanford won 20-16. (AP Photo/John Miller)

"Arizona is a good football team that has shot themselves in the foot," Bellotti said on Thursday. "They are very physical and they will do a good job. We need to be prepared for their best game. Our kids have practiced with good focus and good energy this week."

The issue of focus and energy seems to be a point that Bellotti has stressed all week long. In his media conferences on Tuesday, he mentioned that one of his jobs is to keep his team focused on the task of winning football games. The Ducks secured bowl eligibility with the win over Washington (45-21) last week and this week another win allows the Ducks to take another step up the ladder on which bowl game they might appear in.

The Pac-10 has contracts for six bowls, the Rose, Holiday, Sun, Insight Las Vegas and Emerald Bowls. However, this year the Rose Bowl is the site for the BCS championship. The Pac-10 champion goes to the Rose Bowl only if it is ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the final BCS Poll. If at the end of the season the winner of the Pac-10 race does not go to the Rose Bowl then the best Pac-10 finisher goes to the Fiesta Bowl.

Oregon was in the Fiesta Bowl on January 1, 2002, and defeated Colorado, 38-16 to finish the season as the No. 2 team nationally for the 2001 season.

The Holiday Bowl, played in San Diego on Thursday, December 29th, is reserved for the second place Pac-10 finisher. Oregon played Texas in 2000, and defeated the Longhorns 35-30, giving the Ducks their first 10-win season and a 7th ranking in the AP Poll (9th in the USA/ESPN Poll).

Oregon has played in the Sun Bowl three times (1963, 1999 and 2003) and in the Las Vegas Bowl once (1997). The Ducks have never played in the Insight or the Emerald Bowls. The Sun Bowl is open to the team with the best finish after the Rose (Fiesta) and Sun Bowl. The Insight, Las Vegas and Emerald Bowls are descending order bowls based upon bowl (six wins) eligibility.

While some fans and observers may think that the Arizona game is a sure win for the Ducks, Bellotti is adamant in his belief that Arizona is a very capable team. Last week against Stanford, the Wildcats actually were ahead in statistics, 271 yards total offense to Stanford's 195 yards. Arizona had more first downs (17-11) and time of possession (34 minutes to 25 minutes). Unfortunately for Arizona, they also committed 5 costly turnovers, three fumbles and two interceptions that cost them the game.

Arizona may also have a new face taking snaps. The Arizona Daily Star reported earlier this week that true freshman Willie Tuitama could see action against the Ducks on Saturday. Although Arizona's head coach Mike Stoops confirmed in the Pac-10 media conference on Tuesday that quarterback Richard Kovalcheck would start against Oregon, Stoops did not rule out the possibility of Tuitama playing. Kovalcheck struggled in giving up two interceptions last week and with a 1-5 record, Stoops must look at ways to improve his team's performance.

"We have to move forward as a program and look at his (Tuitama) opportunities," said Stoops of the possibility of playing Tuitama. "See if he makes us better at this time."

Whatever the Wildcats have in mind, Bellotti feels his team has firm goals set and are preparing to take another step this weekend in Tucson. The will kick off at 4 p.m. on Saturday and there is no live television coverage for the contest.

More comments from Bellotti can be heard on KXL on Friday night from 7-8 p.m. on Ducks Gridiron Report with Jay Allen and Bobby Debisschop.

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