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Huge weekend: Arizona tries to crash center stage against Oregon

I’m spending my Sunday watching college football!

Obviously, that may sound confusing but I’ll be traveling to Southern California and watching ASU all day Saturday, so I’ll miss the games. Give me the third-greatest invention of all-time (the DVR), and I’ll be watching all these great games that I’ll miss.

Nationally, all eyes are on the SEC West this weekend. #6 Texas A&M at #12 Mississippi State, #3 Alabama at #11 Ole Miss, and #15 LSU is at #5 Auburn. That’s an amazing schedule for the entire country. In the SEC West, that’s just a normal gameday.

Locally, all three teams in this state have huge games against “ranked” opponents. Each game has a national stage feel to it but each team has a different role on the stage. Arizona is the opening act against Oregon on Thursday night so we’ll look at them first.

STAGE ENTRANCE

Arizona is not on the national stage. Arizona is standing outside looking at the door to welcome them to the stage. The goal is ripping the door open while Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota jams the door shut. If UA wants to be invited on to the stage, they must do three things:

1) Time out the delayed blitz

You can’t lose gap integrity rushing Mariota or he’ll gash you. You can’t sit back and let him throw it all over. The key to putting pressure on Mariota is rush four, keep one spy on Mariota and bring the spy. If you make Mariota think you’re not bringing pressure, his eyes go downfield, that’s when you bring the heat up the “A” gap. If you come early, he runs away and kills you throwing on the move.

2) Worry about the next play

I’ve been on the sideline for too many Oregon games. Their secret is simple. If they gash you, while your defense starts yelling at each other trying to diagnose what happened, Oregon runs a play. Normally, it’s the same play. Figure out your mistakes on the sideline after the drive. Don’t waste time on the field.

3) Stick to your offensive game plan

By now, the coaching staff should know what works. It doesn’t matter what the score is, play to your strengths. Far too often, teams try to play hurry-up to keep up (which isn’t a problem for UA) or they abandon the run thinking they must throw to score in a hurry. Almost every team that trails in a game to Oregon feels the sense of panic set in. Do what you do best on offense and look at the scoreboard at the end of the game.

Thursday ASU and USC get center stage. Friday is the grand finale with the Cardinals meeting Peyton Manning.