Pac-12 Championship Preview

Second verse, same as the first?

The Arizona Wildcats and Oregon Ducks will meet for the second time in 2014, and the third time in just over a calendar year when the two teams take the field in Santa Clara, CA for the Pac-12 Championship Game Friday night. Coverage starts at 9 P.M. Eastern on FOX.

The Pac-12 North has been a very anti-climactic division this year, with Oregon clinching the championship nearly a month ago. All the Ducks have been doing since then is to make sure they stay at one loss heading into this game. The South division on the other hand was a different story. Two weeks ago, Arizona was in fourth place among their divisional counterparts. But after a series of events went perfectly for the Wildcats, they came out with an outright win of the south.

Arizona had to win games against two ranked teams in Utah and Arizona State, and needed UCLA to beat USC then lose to Stanford, which the Bruins did. All of that happened, and now just three years into the Rich Rodriguez era in Tucson, U of A is playing for a conference title.

And they’re playing for a league championship against a team that they seem to match up perfectly with in Oregon.

The last two times Arizona and Oregon have met, the Wildcats have won both games, outscoring the Ducks by a combined 73-40. Outside of the two Arizona games, Oregon has a record of 22-1 the last two seasons.

When Oregon has the ball, it’s going to come down to the matchup of Marcus Mariota vs. Scooby Wright III, both of whom are finalists for the Walter Camp Award. Wright dominated that game earlier this year, forcing a fumble, recovering a fumble, and getting a sack. One thing to note is that Oregon’s offensive line was very banged up in the first game. The Ducks are much healthier up front this time around, but Arizona’s defense has become a lot more physically imposing as well.

Arizona has found success against Oregon on the offensive side by dominating time of possession, something the Wildcats don’t usually pull off against other opponents. UA has had the ball for over 69 minutes of game time during these two wins the past two years. The key to their success again this time around will be getting Nick Wilson going in the running game, and to not turn the ball over.

For some reason, Oregon is favored by two touchdowns heading into this game. If Arizona can do anything close to what they’ve been able to do the last two years, this game will be close, and will come down to the last possession, just like basically every other Wildcats game this year. With Arizona ranked seventh in the College Football Playoff rankings and Oregon ranked second, this has the feel of a national quarterfinal game. The Wildcats are the highest-ranked two-loss team in the country, and if they can pull off a second win against Oregon this year mixed in with one or two favorable outcomes around the rest of the nation on Saturday, Arizona could somehow find its way into the four-team playoff. If Oregon wins, the Ducks will head back to the Rose Bowl, and cement Marcus Mariota’s case for the Heisman Trophy.

*Section Photo credit to Christian Petersen, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Ryan Kang, Daily Emerald

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