The no. 6 Oregon Ducks are slowly getting closer to a Pac-12 championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff as they get set to host the Arizona Wildcats in Week 12 of the season. Kickoff is scheduled for 10:30 EST on Saturday, November 16 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon. Fans can catch all of the action on ESPN.
Current betting odds have Oregon favored by 27.5 points at home with an over/under of 68.5 points. Click here for a full list of this week’s college football betting odds.
Since losing their season opener to Auburn in heartbreaking fashion, the Ducks have been unstoppable, rattling off eight straight wins. Oregon got last week off and is now set to finish the season strong. With one more win, the Ducks will clinch the Pac-12 North and earn a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. However, Oregon appears to have a shot at playing in the CFP. Doing so will require winning their three remaining games, winning the Pac-12 title game, and perhaps getting a little outside help. However, barring another loss, the Ducks will have a resume that will put them in the conversation.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats are just trying to salvage this season by qualifying for a bowl game. Last week’s bye came on the heels of a four-game losing streak for Arizona. The silver lining is that the Wildcats are 4-5 and only need to win two of their final three games to become bowl eligible. The caveat is that Arizona’s schedule includes both Oregon and Utah, the two best teams in the Pac-12, not to mention a road game against rival Arizona State. To get to a bowl game, the Wildcats will need at least one top-10 upset and a win over their rival. If they don’t pull it off, Kevin Sumlin could be on the hot seat, as Arizona didn’t play in a bowl game last year and Sumlin is now 9-12 over his two seasons in Arizona.
Fortunately for Arizona, they have reason to believe they can beat Oregon after blowing out the Ducks 44-15 last season. On the other hand, the Wildcats lost 48-28 when they visited Eugene in 2017.
To be honest, I’m awfully tempted to lay down the points in this game. Two of Oregon’s six Pac-12 wins this year have come by over 30 points, so the Ducks are more than capable of blowing out conference foes. But with an extra week to prepare and plenty of desperation, I’ll give Arizona the benefit of the doubt one last time. I’m not high on the Wildcats, but I think they can at least keep this game within four touchdowns.
The biggest reason I’m taking a chance on Arizona in this game is that they have proven all season that they can score points. There have been a couple of stinkers along the way, but the Wildcats are averaging close to 33 points per game, which isn’t half bad for a team with a losing record. Arizona has scored at least 27 points in five of their seven games against power-conference opponents. If that trend continues and the Wildcats can at least break 20 points, the odds of Oregon covering 27.5 points start to come down.
For the last few weeks, Sumlin has employed a two-quarterback system with Khalil Tate and Grant Gunnell. Despite a lack of wins over that time, the Arizona offense has started to improve after a mid-season slump. Tate is a true dual-threat quarterback who is dangerous with his legs and often viable as a passer. Meanwhile, the freshman Gunnell, who is more of a pocket passer, is starting to play better without the burden of being the full-time quarterback. Over his last three games, Gunnell has thrown five touchdown passes to just one interception.
Obviously, it’s not the most conventional offense. But Sumlin seems to be managing the two quarterbacks in a positive manner. Between Tate and the running back tandem of J.J. Taylor and Gary Brightwell, the Wildcats also have a productive rushing attack that is gaining five yards per carry on the season. It’s not the way I would draw it up, but I have a fair amount of confidence in the Arizona offense right now.
Meanwhile, I’m starting to sour on the Oregon defense. The Ducks looked outstanding on that side of the ball over the first half of the season. But Oregon is conceding 30 points per game over their last three games. To be fair, they’ve played some of the more dynamic offenses in the Pac-12 during that span. They’ve also forced plenty of turnovers this season. However, the Oregon defense has also been vulnerable enough to make me think that the Wildcats can move the ball and find the end zone against them.
Again, I won’t put it past Oregon to cover the spread in this game. We know the Ducks can score points, especially against a lackluster Arizona defense. However, covering this many points typically requires a strong defensive effort as well. I think the Arizona offense is good enough to avoid a humiliating four-touchdown loss, so I’ll take the Wildcats to beat the spread.