Two of the final three undefeated Pac-12 teams meet Thursday as Arizona visits fourth-ranked Oregon, which is looking to avenge last season’s 42-16 loss. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who threw two interceptions in last season’s defeat, leads the Heisman Trophy race with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 74 percent of his passes through four games. Mariota should thrive against the Pac-12’s second-worst passing efficiency defense, but Arizona’s explosive offense has the weapons to keep pace.
Both teams are playing for the first time since Sept. 20, when the Wildcats used a Hail Mary pass from Anu Solomon to Austin Hill on the final play of the game to record a 49-45 win over California. Mariota was sacked seven times in the Ducks’ 38-31 triumph at Washington State, but he passed for 329 yards and five touchdowns - including the game-winner with less than six minutes remaining. Arizona, which snapped its five-game losing streak against Oregon last season, has won three of its four contests this year by seven points or fewer.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Oregon -22.5
ABOUT ARIZONA (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12): Solomon, a redshirt freshman, overcame a slow start and completed 47-of-73 passes for a school-record 520 yards and five touchdowns against California. Wide receiver Cayleb Jones is an emerging star for the Wildcats’ offense, which averages 405 yards and features freshman Nick Wilson - who ranks second in the Pac-12 in rushing yards (482) and yards per game (120). The defense allowed 573 yards against California, but linebacker Scooby Wright III has been a bright spot as he leads the Pac-12 with 12.8 tackles per game.
ABOUT OREGON (4-0, 1-0): The bye week came at an opportune time for Oregon, which needed the extra rest to improve an offensive line that lost tackles Tyler Johnstone, Andre Yruretagoyena and Jake Fisher to leg injuries early in the season. The Ducks’ defense allowed 436 passing yards against Washington State and will be tested again by the Wildcats, who are hoping to repeat last year’s effort as they were 6-for-6 inside the red zone. “It’s a new year, and new teams, and I feel like both teams are better,” receiver Keanon Lowe told goducks.com. “That being said, we remember vividly that feeling of going in Arizona and getting our butt whooped.”
1. Mariota has 7,477 career passing yards and needs 80 to move ahead of Kellen Clemens for third all-time at Oregon.
2. Washington State is seeking its first win in Eugene since posting a 55-16 victory in 2003.
3. All but seven of Oregon’s 51 victories since 2010 have been by more than 14 points.
PREDICTION: Oregon 44, Arizona 27