EUGENE, Ore. – Much has been made this week about how new Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez pioneered the up-tempo, no-huddle offense, and how Oregon coach Chip Kelly has taken the concept and run with it, so to speak.
So while most eyes are unblinkingly watching the two hyper-drive offenses, it may be the defenses that determine the outcome when the No. 22 Wildcats visit the No. 3 Ducks tonight at Autzen Stadium.
“Everybody’s got their work cut out for them,” Oregon safety Brian Jackson said.
There are plenty of numbers both defenses are no doubt pondering right now.
Arizona is averaging 46.3 points per games, or 12th in the nation, compared to Oregon’s 54 points, fifth nationally. The Wildcats average 604.7 yards in total offense per game, fourth nationally, while the Ducks average 596.3 yards for seventh.
The Wildcats lead the nation with 108 first downs through three games, while Oregon is sixth with 89.
“They are always exciting to watch on TV because of the type of offense they run but their team can be beat,” Arizona cornerback Jonathan McKnight said. “We just have to play really hard against them.”
The Wildcats have introduced a new 3-3-5 defense, which has held their opponents to an average of 382 yards in total offense and 18.3 points.
Arizona opened Rodriguez’s tenure with a victory over Toledo before upsetting then-No. 18 Oklahoma State 59-38 in their second game. Last weekend in a 56-0 win over South Carolina State, the Wildcats ran a school-record 102 offensive plays.
“I’m not really worried about whether we’re ranked or not. I’m worried about how are we preparing and how we are working.” Rodriguez said.
Oregon runs a hybrid 3-4 defense under longtime defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. Because the Ducks’ offense is so quick, the defensive unit is well conditioned and adept at rotating in and out. This season, Oregon is holding opponents to 357 yards and 24 points.
“We’re just going have to be very disciplined as a defense and have our eyes right,” Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan said. “And just give a tremendous effort as far as getting to the ball and making plays.”