The only Pac-12 team in contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff will meet the conference's basement dweller Saturday when No. 3 Oregon hosts Arizona in the league opener for both teams. For the first time since 2014, the Ducks are looking to start 4-0 while Arizona tries to generate anything positive following a brutal 21-19 loss to Northern Arizona from the FCS last week.
The Wildcats have, to put it lightly, struggled under first-year coach Jedd Fisch, but that was to be expected after they bottomed out at 0-5 in 2020 during former coach Kevin Sumlin's final season. Oregon, by contrast, is clearly established as the best team in the Pac-12 and a College Football Playoff contender following a 35-28 win at Ohio State in Week 2. Without that victory, the league would be be completely irrelevant. The Ducks are one of just two Pac-12 teams ranked in the AP Top 25, the other being No. 24 UCLA.
Oregon is rightfully a heavy favorite, but Arizona did pull a stunner by upsetting the Ducks 44-15 in 2018 during Sumlin's first season. However, that Arizona team was more talented, and this is the best team fourth-year Oregon coach Mario Cristobal has fielded. But the memory of that upset should provide some motivation for Cristobal and his veteran players who were on the roster.
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Oregon vs. Arizona: Need to know
Anthony Brown's status: Brown, Oregon's starting quarterback left last week's win over Stony Brook at the end of the first half due to an injury and did not return. At the time of his injury, Brown had completed 14-of-18 passes for 159 yards while throwing for a touchdown and running for another in the first half. Cristobal said the Ducks were "just making sure he was OK" and offered a positive outlook on Monday regarding Brown's health. But if the Ducks want to take it easy on Brown, they do have another option at the position ...
Ty Thompson's role: When Brown exited last week, true freshman Ty Thompson made his long-awaited debut. Thompson was Oregon's highest-rated quarterback signee of the 247Sports era, and the former five-star prospect looked good against Stony Brook. The starting job rests firmly with Brown if he's healthy, but Thompson is the program's future and could see action if the Ducks open up a big lead. There was some mystery regarding Brown's backup earlier this season, but Thompson ended those questions as he completed 6-of-9 passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns.
Kayvon Thibodeaux's potential return: Oregon star edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux hasn't played since wreaking havoc against Fresno State in the first half of the season opener. The ankle injury he suffered against the Bulldogs kept him out of the Ducks' win at Ohio State and the Stony Brook game. He's still day-to-day, the projected the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft shouldn't be needed, but it might be beneficial for him to get some live reps before a big game at Stanford next week.
How to watch Oregon vs. Arizona live
Date: Saturday, Sept. 25 | Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Location: Autzen Stadium -- Eugene, Oregon
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Oregon vs. Arizona prediction, picks
Arizona played a competitive game in the season opener against BYU, now ranked No. 15, by moving the football through the air. Oregon's pass defense hasn't been great and the Ducks may grow a bit disinterested in the second half. That should allow the Wildcats to score a bit and cover a large spread. Prediction: Oregon (+28.5)
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