The Arizona Wildcats are less than a week removed from the program’s first loss to Football Championship Subdivision team.
That college football defeat came to in-state foe, Northern Arizona University, which came from behind to knock off the Wildcats, 21-19, earning the program’s first win against Arizona since 1932 in the process.
Arizona and Oregon square off in Eugene at 7:30 p.m. local time, with ESPN carrying the contest live nationally.
Heading to the Willamette Valley
Fast forward a week, and things don’t get any easier for Coach Jedd Fisch and company, as they make a 1,000-mile trek to Eugene to face No. 3 Oregon at Autzen Stadium.
The Ducks are two weeks removed from upsetting Ohio State in Columbus. They feature a dynamic offense that’s averaging more than 200 yards through the air and on the ground in three games this season.
Operators are not buying into Arizona’s chances, unsurprisingly enough, with DraftKings Arizona, BetMGM Arizona and FanDuel Arizona all listing the Wildcats as a 28.5-point underdog in Saturday night’s contest.
Arizona’s Checkered History in Eugene
It’ll be Arizona’s first trip to Eugene since 2019, when the Ducks smacked down the Wildcats, 34-6.
The Wildcats’ last win at Autzen came in 2014, when they knocked off the then-No. 3 ranked Ducks, 31-24.
The last win that Arizona has in the series came in Tucson on Oct. 27, 2018 — when the Wildcats throttled the Ducks, 44-15.
Arizona’s record against Oregon all-time is 17-27, dating back to 1937 — with the Ducks winning three of the last four contests between the two sides.
Oregon’s season to date includes a seven-point wins over Fresno State (31-24, in Eugene) and Ohio State (35-28, in Columbus), to go with a 48-7 shellacking of an FCS squad, Stony Brook, last Saturday.
A large part of Oregon’s offense has gone through senior QB Anthony Brown, who has thrown for 567 yards and four touchdowns this season, with zero interceptions to his name.
Brown has also been able to operate head coach Mario Cristobal’s high-speed, spread option offense well, accumulating 123 yards on 20 carries and scoring two touchdowns on the ground this season.
Joining Brown in the Ducks’ backfield are junior running backs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, who have combined to gain 483 yards on the ground, with six rushing touchdowns combined.
The Ducks also have Chandler native Johnny Johnson III at wide receiver, who leads all Ducks in receiving yards (117) this season.
The senior should get a lot of targets in the opening quarters of Saturday’s contest, as the Ducks look to put away the Wildcats early, allowing younger players to get some playing time before the team heads to Palo Alto to face the Stanford Cardinal.
Who Plays QB for Arizona?
A main question for Fisch’s offense is who will take the first-team reps at QB for the Wildcats on Saturday night.
That’s because the three quarterbacks that have seen playing time for Arizona this season have combined for 781 yards and five scores in three games, with none of the three standing out thus far.
So far this season, Arizona’s quarterbacks have combined for a 50.5 grade from analytics site, Pro Football Focus, which is the lowest number of any team in the Pac-12.
Fisch summed up the current QB conundrum in his comments to members of the media earlier this week.
“Clearly, we have to get better quarterback play,” Fisch said.
Whether the Wildcats will or not is yet to be determined, though we’ll know a lot more when the ball kicks off at Autzen on Saturday night.