The fifth-ranked Ducks (9-1) face the inconsistent Arizona Wildcats (6-4) in the penultimate game of the regular season. Thanks to a Stanford loss last week, the Ducks once again control their own destiny in the Pac-12. Autzen Stadium will host the third annual Pac-12 Championship Game if the team wins tomorrow's game in Arizona Stadium and the Civil War.
But funny things always seem to happen when the Ducks fly down to Tucson. And by funny, I mean soul-crushingly awful. Sure, you can say that LaMichael James setting a then-record for rushing yardage in a single game in 2011 was pretty good. You might even say the Ducks' overtime victory in 2009 remains one of the greatest experiences of the past 5 years. But this is more about 2005 and 2007. The images of Kellen Clemens crawling on the ground with a broken ankle and then-Heisman favorite Dennis Dixon's knee buckling on that accursed field are forever burned in the retinas of Oregon fans.
On the other hand, these aren't "Red-Faced" Mikey Stoops' head-hunting Wildcats anymore. These are Rich Rodriguez' new, up-tempo spread-option Mildcats. You might remember them from such games as when Oregon beat them 49-0 last year on national TV. Heck, even the Bermuda grass that helped injure so many Oregon quarterbacks in the past has been replaced with FieldTurf.
Keys to the Game
Mariota's Knee — For the second week running [Get it?—Ed.], this is the primary concern. The injury hasn't had a noticeable effect on Mariota's passing—At 353-consecutive passes without an interception, he has nearly doubled the old Pac-12 record. But the Hawaiian QB was sacked several times last week, rushing for a whopping -18 yards. Please let this star quarterback survive this vile stadium.
Better stop that Ka'Deem Carey guy — Carey, perhaps best remembered as the guy who broke the conference record for rushing yardage in a game a week after Kenjon Barner set it last season, is at it again. He's the second-leading rusher in the country at about 150 a game. Oregon held him to 79 yards last season. So just do that again. Alright, guys?
Protect the team, cheerleaders from wretched fans — Despite the non-troversy earlier this season about the fan behavior at Autzen Stadium, the football fans in Tucson have them beat. From the cheering when Ducks were injured, to preemptively rushing the field, to hitting cheerleaders with water bottles, the stadium security officials should have their hands full with these rambunctious yahoos.
A look around the Pac-12
Utah vs. Washington (12:30 pm, Pac-12 Network) — Otherwise known as the Battle for the Gildan New Mexico Bowl Berth
California vs. #9 Stanford (1 pm, Fox Sports 1) — Stanford gets to beat up on the worst team in the conference and reflect on what it let happen last week. Also, I think this game is a rivalry or something.
#17 Arizona State vs #14 UCLA (4 pm, FOX) — This game in all likelihood will determine which team will lose the Pac-12 Championship Game in three weeks.
#23 USC vs. Colorado (6:30 pm, Pac-12 Network) — Both of these programs are coming off of big conference wins.
Washington vs. Oregon State (7:30 pm, ESPN2) — Beavs and doogs face off in the annual Can't Both of These Teams Lose? Bowl.