Oregon State at Arizona: Beavers Take on the ZonaZoo (Final Pregame Thoughts)

Oregon St. has won the last four meetings in the series in Tucson, including two years ago when Justin Kahut redeemed himself for missing a game tying extra point by hitting the game winning field goal as time ran out. The 19-17 victory sent the Beavers into a Civil War for a shot at the Rose Bowl.

Oregon St. has also won 9 of the last 11 against the Wildcats. It seems like ancient history now, though.

Last year's 37-32 Wildcat win in Reser was an overall poor game by the Beavers, punctuated by mistakes, which produced a rare home losing streak during the Riley era. Arizona out-rushed Oregon St. despite being without Nick Grigsby, and held Jacquizz Rodgers to just 85 yards.

Arizona QB Nick Foles was just starting to emerge as a premier quarterback in the Pac-10, but played with great efficiency, especially considering their issues with the running game.

Oregon St. QB Sean Canfield was sacked 5 times, including the last three offensive plays of the game, one of which resulted in a safety. This when only a field goal was needed to get to overtime when the sequence started.

Arizona out-played Oregon St. on special teams, with James Rodgers pulled off return duty due to trouble handling the wind.

That too seems like it should be only a distant memory, as Arizona has had to replace the majority of the players off that defense, and replace all of their coordinators. But ‘Cats coach Mike Stoops has something figured out.

Despite the overhaul of the defense behind their line, which does return Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed, Arizona is the #2 team in the country in total defense. That makes this the third top three defense the Beavers have faced in their three road games so far this season.

But Iowa is the only team to even score a touchdown in four games against the Arizona defense. The ninth ranked ‘Cats conquered Cal 10-9 two weeks ago, not that that makes them a defense for the ages.

The wildcard in evaluating Arizona is their 41-2 win at Toledo in the season opener. Considering the Rockets are 3-2 after playing 4 teams that were bowl teams last year, and have won three road games, including against a Big-10 team, maybe Toledo, who happen to be visiting the blue turf in Boise today, isn't so shabby, and that might be a more impressive ‘Cats performance than many are giving them credit for. It would sure be nice to be able to see how that goes before picking an outcome in Tucson today.

Some (Connor) picked Arizona as high as winning the Pac-10, and most downgraded them only because of preseason questions about their rebuilt defense. Questions the ‘Cats seem to have answered.

Temperatures should be only a little toastier in Tucson than they were in Boise, a bit of a break for the Beavers. The ‘Zona Zoo, if anything, will turn up the heat more than Bronco Nation did though, in what is the fourth consecutive home game for the Wildcats.

Oregon St.'s special teams should win the field position battle overall, despite the apparent once a game bad punt that seems to haunt them, and that means the Beavers will score some points.

But Arizona will too, as there are still coverage gaps in the Beaver secondary.

Almost all teams that get going have a poor outing at some point, but the ones that play good defense are usually the ones that survive that. I think Arizona already had that against Cal, and their defense got them thru that. With an extra week to recover, expect the Wildcat offense to show much better than they did against the Bears.

(Side note to Bob DeCarolis, not only has Oregon St.'s schedule put them up against three top nine teams, and the top three defenses, all on the road, but in two of three cases, that top opponent has had extra time to prepare for the Beavers, and have treated it as one of their biggest games. Just how aggressive do the Beavers really need to schedule?)

With several advantages in Arizona's favor, I expect Oregon St. to play well, and again cover the 7.5 point spread, but come up short, and by too much for Kahut to make the difference. Arizona 31 Oregon St. 27 looks like the betting line to take.

Probable outcome aside, Oregon St. coach Mike Riley is money once the Beavers get past September (which is when last year's debacle happened). And the Beavers' defensive front got six sacks last week, to go with three interceptions.

Jacquizz Rodgers got hurt two years ago in Tucson, and doesn't have a good game on his resume against Arizona. ‘Quizz doesn't leave unfinished business very often.

James Rodgers is back healthy. James almost never leaves unfinished business.

Given that the Oregon St. defense makes a couple of big plays to offset giving up a couple of plays, this OSU business trip turns bad for the ‘Cats.

Oregon St. 34 Arizona 30.

Go Beavs!

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

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