Rich Rodriguez can recite practically every line from his favorite film. This week, the Arizona coach offered a command performance of his most beloved scene that doubled as a spot-on commentary on his team's odds of beating Oregon in Eugene Saturday.
"What are my chances?" Rodriguez said, mimicking Jim Carrey. Then Rodriguez showed his range by also reciting Lauren Holly's lines.
"Not good," Rodriguez said.
"Not good like one out of a hundred?" he asked.
"More like one out of a million," he replied. Then Rodriguez nailed the punchline.
Despite what people in Ann Arbor might say, Rodriguez is neither Dumb nor Dumber. He understands what the Wildcats will face at Autzen Stadium. Though Arizona is 3-0 with an impressive win against Oklahoma State, the Wildcats haven't seen anything like Oregon this season. "We're not as fast as them or as deep as them," Rodriguez said. "The depth is what concerns me."
Rodriguez understands better than most how Oregon chews up opponents. After all, Rodriguez pioneered many of the concepts Ducks coach Chip Kelly -- who, while at New Hampshire, visited then-Clemson offensive coordinator Rodriguez to learn the offense -- uses to power the fastest offense in America. The zone read? Rodriguez practically invented it. The two-minute drill tempo for an entire game? Rodriguez thought he had refined that at West Virginia. Then he saw the 2012 Ducks on video.
"They've got fast guys playing fast," Rodriguez said. "It kind of reminds me of when we were at West Virginia with Pat White, Steve Slaton and Noel Devine. We had fast guys at every position that touches the ball, and we were playing fast."
Kelly has elevated what Rodriguez did at West Virginia to an art form. He's got his White (quarterback Marcus Mariota), his Slaton (tailback Kenjon Barner) and his Devine (tailback De'Anthony Thomas), except this Oregon group may be even better than that West Virginia group. Rodriguez is just as impressed with coordinator Nick Aliotti's Oregon defense, which sends in waves of players like a hockey team making line changes. This is critical. When a team's offense moves as quickly as Oregon's, that team's defense must be deep enough to withstand the inevitable barrage of plays it must face because its offense scores so darn fast. Aliotti has developed that depth. "You want to be able to play 22-24 guys on defense," Rodriguez said. "I don't even think we have that many guys on scholarship on defense. We're starting three walk-ons."
That's where Arizona will run into trouble in Eugene. Wildcats quarterback Matt Scott and the offense should move the ball adequately and put up some points, but perpetually fresh Oregon defenders will stop them from time to time. Arizona's defense might get some early stops, but without the depth Rodriguez spoke of, the Wildcats will wear down, and the Ducks will start rolling.
Even if Saturday's trip to Eugene doesn't go as well as Harry's and Lloyd's trip to Aspen, Rodriguez believes he can eventually help the Wildcats reach Oregon's level. Unlike early in his tenure at Michigan, Rodriguez has received unconditional support from the administration and fans. That should make the building process easier, but it also means Rodriguez has no excuse if his record at Arizona ends up looking like his record at Michigan.
"We're still in the honeymoon because we haven't lost yet, but the fan support has been really good," Rodriguez said. "I don't know how to say it, I guess they're really rooting for us. Everybody's pulling in the same direction and really rooting for us whether it's internally or externally around town."
Every day, Rodriguez leaves the office and sees the cranes that will help build the $72 million football facility scheduled to open next August. When the Wildcats move in, Rodriguez can offer recruits every modern amenity, warm -- sometimes scorching -- weather and an exciting, fast-paced style of play. Trade warm weather for couture uniforms, and that's exactly what Oregon can offer recruits. So can Rodriguez raise Arizona to Oregon's level? "We're going to get to that eventually," he said, "but we're not there right now."
He's telling us there's a chance.
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