There are some great matchups on Saturday in college football in Week 4. But if you like shootouts, and most do, then for my money potentially the most exciting game on Saturday, if not the 2012 regular season, is when No. 22 Arizona visits No. 3 Oregon in one of the final kicks of the night (10:30 p.m. ET).
New UA coach Rich Rodriguez is often called the pioneer of the modern spread-option offense, and he has it rolling after just three games at Arizona. QB Matt Scott is the West Coast version of Pat White/Denard Robinson, and the Wildcats rank No. 4 in the nation in total offense (604.7 ypg) and No. 12 in scoring (46.3). They lead the nation with 108 first downs.
Death, taxes and Oregon being among the NCAA offensive leaders under Chip Kelly are three sure things in life. The Ducks are No. 7 in total offense (596.3) and No. 5 in scoring (54.0). Thus, you can understand why this total of 78.5 on WagerWeb is the highest of the week and I believe this season so far.
Kelly’s offense certainly has some basis on Rodriguez’s ideas, especially a dual-threat quarterback operating in a no-huddle. The two coaches met in 1999 when Kelly was the offensive coordinator at New Hampshire and he visited Clemson to pick the brain of Rodriguez, who was in the same position there. The year RichRod went to Michigan, Kelly became the OC at Oregon and then took over as head coach in 2009.
Oregon has had Arizona’s number in recent years. The Ducks have won four straight overall, averaging 50.8 points, and 11 of the last 13 meetings. Last year, Oregon won 56-31 in Tucson.
Arizona at Oregon Betting Storylines
It’s hard to know what either team truly is thus far. Arizona (3-0) hasn’t played a road game yet and looked very shaky in an opening 24-17 overtime win over Toledo. But the Cats made believers of many, and they entered the Top 25 with a 59-38 blitz of then-No. 18 Oklahoma State on Sept. 8. Last week, Arizona won 56-0 and called the dogs off against FCS school South Carolina State. UA ran a school-record 102 plays and had 689 total yards, two short of another record.
No team plays faster than the Ducks. Of Oregon’s 23 drives resulting in touchdowns this season, 14 have lasted less than two minutes and seven have taken 60 seconds or less. The Ducks have 10 plays of at least 25 yards this season, with four going for touchdowns. But Oregon’s opening schedule (Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech) leaves a lot to be desired.
My personal favorite player in the nation is Ducks running back/receiver/return man De’Anthony Thomas. He is averaging an obscene 17.5 yards on 13 carries with four touchdowns. And he has three scores on 11 receptions. Thomas has plenty of help. Starting tailback Kenjon Barner has six touchdowns and 324 yards on 56 carries, and redshirt freshman QB Marcus Mariota is completing better than 75 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and just one pick. He became the first Ducks freshman QB to throw for 300 yards last week vs. Tennessee Tech and leads the Pac-12 in passing efficiency. Mariota hasn’t been asked to run much yet outside of the Fresno game.
It seems pretty obvious that both teams will score, so I suppose this comes down to defense. Arizona’s was shredded by Oklahoma State as the Cowboys had 636 yards of total offense but lost in large part because of four turnovers. As for Oregon’s defense, who knows? That it held Fresno State to 25 looks a little better after watching the Bulldogs put up 69 on Colorado last week.
Arizona at Oregon Betting Odds and Trends
The Ducks are 21.5-point favorites, according to college football odds, with the total at 78.5 on WagerWeb. At a few books, this line has dropped from as high as 25.5. UA is 2-1 ATS this season and 1-1 “over/under;” UO is 0-3 ATS and 1-1 O/U.
Arizona is 2-5 ATS in its past seven road games. The Cats are 1-6 ATS in their past seven following an ATS win. Oregon is 1-5-1 ATS in its past seven overall and 1-6-2 ATS in its past nine home games. The Ducks are 1-4 ATS in their past five after a win. The over is 4-0 in the past four meetings. Arizona has covered in five of the past seven.
College Football Picks: Arizona at Oregon Predictions
If you believe in the “Sports Illustrated” curse, and it does seem to happen more often than not, Oregon is on upset alert Saturday as Thomas graced the cover of this week’s magazine.
Arizona won’t win trying to outscore Oregon. Since Kelly arrived in Eugene, the Ducks are 43-1 when they surpass the 40-point mark. The lone loss came 51-42 at Stanford in 2009.Oregon has scored at least 30 in 16 straight games and is 35-2 all-time under Kelly when hitting that mark. And how is this for a stat: The Ducks have never lost a game from Week 2 through Week 8 under Kelly. Rodriguez, to be fair, is 35-1 in his coaching career when his teams have scored at least 40 and 61-4 when hitting at least 30.
One problem for Arizona is that its first three opponents clearly weren’t ready for the speed of play. The Wildcats lead all FBS schools in opponent penalty yards (340) – Oklahoma State had a whopping 167 penalty yards against them. The Ducks’ defenders play against this type of offense in practice all season.
I wish there would be an over/under for plays in this game as I’m guessing it could reach 200 – the teams combine for around 180 but obviously haven’t gone against opposite fast-paced offenses yet. The record for a regulation game is 196, set way back in 1971 in a San Diego State-North Texas game. The most yards gained by two teams in regulation are 1,640.
With the way this line is dropping, I would hold off if you are backing Oregon, but I think the Ducks cover (not by much) despite that recent home ATS trend. Everything screams over here and as much as I want to be contrarian, I can’t do it.
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