Duck fans around the state were left stunned and heartbroken when the Arizona Wildcats (10-2, 8-2) walked into Eugene and trounced Oregon(11-1, 8-1) 31-24 on Oct. 2. At the time, Oregon was ranked second behind Florida State and the loss dropped them all the way to twelfth. Fortunately for the Ducks, many top teams including Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas A&M also fell that week helping vault them back into the top 10.
Oregon continued its dominance with big victories over UCLA, 42-30, Stanford, 45-16, and Utah, 51-27 to work its way back into second place behind Alabama. If Oregon wins against Arizona, they will secure a spot in the new four team playoff and play a semifinal game in Pasadena, Calif.
The Ducks are led by superstar quarterback Marcus Mariota, who is on track to win the first ever Heisman trophy for Oregon. Mariota, who is just a junior, is responsible for 48 total touchdowns to only two interceptions. Just the other day, Mariota won the Walter Camp award which is awarded annually to the nation’s best player.
Many teams around the country have struggled to stop the dynamic Mariota, but Arizona has had his number in the past two games. Last season, the Wildcats blew out the Ducks at home 42-16 and forced Mariota to throw two costly interceptions that lead to 14 points for Arizona. In this season’s matchup, Mariota had a costly fumble late in the game that led to a Wildcats victory. The player to force that fumble was linebacker Scooby Wright III who has proven to be an absolute beast on the defensive side of the ball. Wright is third in the country in sacks (14.0), first in tackles (83 individual and 139 combined). Wright has been nominated for numerous awards such as the Nagurski award, best defensive player, and the Lombardi award, for the nation’s best linebacker. He was also awarded first team all Pac-12 for his incredible on field performances.
Both teams sit in the top 10 in the College Football Playoff Rankings with Oregon at second and Arizona at seventh. If Oregon wins, they would most likely play against the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs in the college football playoffs. If Arizona upsets Oregon for a second time this season, they would make a strong case to be vaulted all the way up to the top four for a spot in the playoffs.
Kickoff for arguably the biggest Pac-12 Championship game in recent history is this Friday at 6 p.m. at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.