Tate’s biggest test comes against Oregon’s run defense
It seems all Arizona does on offense is run the ball, but when you have one of the lead rushers in the country it seems like the most logical thing to do.
Arizona has managed to put together an impressive season and have surpassed all expectations that were given at the beginning of the season.
The Wildcats have been running all over teams this season, especially behind the Heisman candidate Khalil Tate, who alone has 1,293 yards on the ground this season.
Coming off of last week’s 49-28 win against Oregon State, the quarterback ran for 206 yards on only 16 carries. Looking ahead to this week’s matchup, Tate will have to get more creative to continue his success against a tough Oregon run defense.
Oregon is one week removed from its brutal 38-3 loss to Washington. The Ducks however will have starting quarterback Herbert back under center for the first time since late September.
What: Arizona (7-3, 5-2 Pac-12) @ Oregon (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12)
When: 5:00 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Storylines to follow
Khalil Tate vs. Oregon’s running
Tate has gotten over 200 rushing yards three times this season and since taking over as starter he has not had a game fewer than 120 yards on the ground. Now, the college football star will face his toughest test against a stout Oregon front seven.
The Ducks have only allowed three opposing players to eclipse 100 rushing yards this season, Heisman candidate Bryce Love (147 ), Washington running back Myles Gaskin (123) and Nebraska running back Tre Bryant (103). Oregon also has the most tackles for a loss in the Pac-12 with 73 while averaging seven a game.
Arizona keys to winning games this season is running the opposing team off the field with the combination of Tate and running back J.J. Taylor.
The last time they played a tough defense that ranks inside the top-30 in the nation was Houston, a game the Wildcats lost with Taylor being held under 100 yards. Tate was not the starter then, but for what it’s worth in four carries his longest run was 10 yards.
Royce Freeman vs. Arizona’s running defense
On the other side, Freeman has been putting together a nice season of his own with seven games this season where the running back had more than 120 yards rushing. He is ranked 11th in the country in rushing yards and 30th in rushing touchdowns.
Arizona has the fourth-best rushing defense in the Pac-12, but they have not done well containing elite running attacks.
In their matchup against Colorado they gave up 281 yards and three touchdowns to running back Phillip Lindsay. Against USC it was no different, running backs Ronald Jones II and Aca’Cedric Ware combined for 316 yards and four scores on the ground.
With Herbert making his first start since breaking his collar bone, expect the Ducks to lean on Freeman throughout the game.
Herbert is back in action
As mentioned, this will be the first game Herbert plays since breaking his collarbone against California in late September. In his first four games before the injury, the quarterback was averaging 295 passing yards a game with eight touchdowns and only two interceptions.
Without Herbert, quarterback Braxton Burmeister started in his place and averaged an atrocious 64 passing yards a game with only two touchdowns and six interceptions.
The first four games the Ducks averaged 50.8 points a game, in games where Burmeister started Oregon is averaging 10.8 points a game. The offense was one dimensional and night and day in Herbert’s absence.
The Wildcats have been ambiguous this season on their pass defense.
Arizona has the fourth-most interceptions in the country, but have given up 292 passing yards a game, which ranks 125th in the country.
The defense against elite quarterbacks has been a mixed bag as well.
The Wildcats managed to disrupt Rosen having him throw for just 219 yards and three picks, but gave up 311 passing yards and two touchdowns to USC quarterback Sam Darnold.
The defense managed to also give up 509 passing yards to Washington State backup quarterback Tyler Hilinski despite the quarterback only playing a little bit more than half. Arizona was able to pick the Hilinski four times.
It’s no telling what defense will be on display. There has also not been any word if Herbert will be limited in any way heading into Saturday’s matchup.
Tate has a chance to display his arm
Every defense has its weak spot and for Oregon it’s the secondary. The Ducks have give up 248.7 passing yards a game, which ranks 99th in the country.
Tate has only had one game this season where he surpassed 200 passing yards. With Oregon’s tough run defense it may require the new star to attack through the air.
Last week, Tate only had to throw the ball seven times to lead his team to victory. Expect more passes this Saturday in Eugene.
Stats to know
46.5 – Since Tate has started at quarterback the Wildcats are averaging 46.5 points a game. The Wildcats have the second-most points scored this season.
21.3 – The Wildcats have the fewest passing attempts a game in the Pac-12 with 21.3 throws a game.
9 – Arizona has allowed only nine sacks this year, which is the seventh-fewest in the country.
15.3 – On punt returns the Wildcats are getting 15.3 yards a return, which is the seventh-most in the country. They have scored twice this season on punt returns.
30 – Oregon has the third-most sacks in the Pac-12 with 30 on the season.