Upsets may have eliminated the Pac-10's best from national title contention, but with four teams still alive in the Rose Bowl hunt and the (admittedly remote) possibility of a six-way tie in place, there isn't a more compelling race in football.
The murky conference-title picture should assume something close to clarity this weekend when Arizona and Oregon, the two teams still in control of their own destinies, meet in Tucson. The winner's BCS hopes will remain intact, while the loser will be left out.
Not that the winner's road will be clear. If the Ducks win and Oregon State beats 32 ½-point underdog Washington State, the Civil War on Dec. 3 would determine the conference champion. The Wildcats face an even tougher road, as trips to Arizona State and USC remain.
"We know we've got to win to stay in the big picture," Arizona coach
Still, concerns remain. Last weekend's 24-16 loss to Cal trimmed the margin for error and raised doubts over Arizona's legitimacy as a Top 25 team. Back in the rankings for the first time since the end of 2000, the Wildcats posted their lowest points and rushing totals of the season and budding star quarterback
The loss cast doubts as to whether a group of players unaccustomed to being in the hunt this late can handle the pressure -- which increases tenfold with the Pac-10's top-ranked scoring offense and defense on deck.
Arizona's front seven has been the strength of the Wildcats' No. 18 defense, recording 26 sacks and allowing 104.8 rush yards per game. But the unit has struggled against dangerous runners like Stanford's
Despite those struggle, the 'Cats boast the personnel to make things interesting. To give 'Zone a chance, defensive end
But for Ducks coach
Even if the past doesn't concern Kelly, this piece of recent history should: This season the Wildcats are 5-0 at home, where they've scored 8.5 more points per game than on the road and held opponents to 13.5 less. The Ducks have sustained both their losses on the road (Boise State and Stanford) and against efficient passers. Foles, Arizona's signal-caller, boasts a completion percentage near 70.
"They can line up and run right at you. They're a tough, physical, very hard-nosed team, and then they have the game where they can spread you out and throw the football with a passing game that's very efficient. They make you cover the whole field. They have the ability to do both and it makes it very difficult on a defense.
"You have to be able to disguise your coverages, you have to be able to disguise your blitzes, but I think the biggest thing is tackling. They have so many good athletes that if you're in space and they get the ball to them quickly, you have to be able to tackle their playmakers and not give them yards after catch. They make a living off of short throws or the running game where they make yards after the catch."
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