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Another week, another difficult, unique challenge for Arizona’s defense

Arizona's defense has given up nine TDs in the past two weeks, including this run by Stanford's Anthony Wilkerson. Photo by Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Playing three consecutive games against top 10 teams is bad. Each has a national top 10 offense. That’s worse.

The worst part? Each of the three offenses is way different than the others.

The degree of difficulty continues to be off the charts for the Arizona Wildcats, who take on 10th-ranked Oregon tonight, trying to slow down the Ducks’ read-option attack, led by quarterback Darron Thomas, running back LaMichael James and a pack of thoroughbred tailbacks in reserve.

Oregon’s run-based spread attack comes one week after Arizona faced Stanford’s pro-style power attack in which the Cardinal crowded the line of scrimmage with an extra lineman and two tight ends to create a tight eight-man front.

That comes one week after Arizona was spread out by Oklahoma State, which can pass the ball with the best of anybody with quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon.

“We’re going through a lot of different offenses right now,” said senior linebacker Derek Earls. “It’s kind of hard to get everything you need to do figured out. You get done with one game, then you have to go to a totally different look.

“Sometimes it gets frustrating, but it’s college football.”

Yep. It’s college football.

Take it from first-year defensive line coach Joe Salave’a, who spent nine years playing in the NFL, basically seeing the same type of offense each week.

“It’s even gotten more diversified over the years,” Salave’a said of college offenses.

“And that is something you relish in some aspect but you also quiver with a little nervous because how do you go from the option to a spread offense to a conventional offense? That’s what makes college football what it is.

“And if you’re really into coaching, that’s where you want to be because you really get to do some thinking and some good, hard teaching.”

For sure, the Wildcats could use all the coaching they can get.

They allowed 594 yards and 37 points to Oklahoma State.

They allowed 567 yards and 37 points to Stanford.

They allowed 537 yards and 48 points to Oregon last season.

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Arizona, built more for speed than power on defense, might be better equipped to handle the Ducks than the Cardinal. The Wildcats can be in their preferred nickel package most of the time against Oregon, but the schematic matchups only go so far.

In a personnel vs. personnel matchup, the Ducks have almost all the playmakers.

Oregon is averaging 50.7 points and 539.7 yards through three games.

The Ducks have averaged 490.75 yards vs. Arizona in the past four meetings.

“It’s another top offense we’re going to face,” said Arizona coach Mike Stoops, also reflecting on the past two weeks.

“All three teams are unique, but they’re all very complex and they’re well-conceived. That’s kind of the challenge for us.”

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