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Arizona-Oregon: Prediction

Rich Rodriguez

Rich Rodriguez was a popular interview subject this week. Photo by Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez has been on the cover of the USA Today sports section, went coast to coast with radio host Jim Rome and will get some love from the ESPN GameDay crew on Saturday morning.

That’s just a small accounting of his media blitz this week.

Even if you just nibbled on college football coverage in the past few days, Rodriguez and the Wildcats have been unavoidable as one of appetizers to a big college football weekend.

Rodriguez’s name, his comeback storyline after the face-plant at Michigan and UA’s win over Oklahoma State two weeks ago has moved the Cats, at least until late Saturday night, into the curiosity category.

Staying there will require No. 22 Arizona to do something thoroughly unexpected during a late-night ESPN telecast against third-ranked Oregon in Eugene, kicking off at 7:37 p.m.

East Coast insomniacs rejoice: Anything less than a combined 80 points and 1,000 yards will have Rodriguez and Oregon coach Chip Kelly resigning their chairmanship in college football’s Up-Tempo Club.

“I believe in this offense,” said Arizona quarterback Matt Scott. “We’ve got playmakers. I know we can put up some points on these guys.”

Fine. Probably so. But that’s not the problem. Arizona scored 33 vs. the Ducks last season. Had 29 the year before that, put up 41 in 2009 and posted 45 in 2008.

The Cats lost each game.

Oregon averaged 50.75 points and 488.5 yards in the past four meetings against Arizona.

Or, as the Ducks call it, just another Saturday.

Facing that frantically fast and super slippery offense, the Cats are slightly more than three-touchdown underdogs on Saturday night.

“Tackling in the open field is going to be a big issue,” Rodriguez said.

This early in the season, there is still enough mystery to think that all things are possible. Arizona’s offense might really be this good. The defense might be able to get by on guile and guts. Oregon might turn out to be great, but right now can only be presumed to be very good, given that the Ducks’ lack of competition has revealed little of importance.

The underdog’s recipe is as it always is: Hang around, take advantage of whatever mistakes from the opponent and make a few plays late.

But if the Ducks play close to their full potential — and they haven’t had to shift into 60-minute mode yet in easy wins over Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech — then the Cats don’t have a chance on the road.

Veteran football coach John Thompson, the Arkansas State defensive coordinator whose unit was shredded for 50 points in the first 23 minutes of the game in the season-opener at Oregon, told Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com this about the Ducks:

“That is, by far, the fastest team I have ever, ever, EV-VER seen. It is unbelievable. … I think they’re gonna win it all. I just don’t see people being able to deal with their speed.”

Arizona just doesn’t have enough of that right now to hang with Oregon.

The attention on the program has been nice, but …

Oregon 52, Arizona 28.

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