College football: Speed the key between Arizona, Oregon

Arizona’s Matt Scott is the Pac-12’s leading passer.
Arizona’s Matt Scott is the Pac-12’s leading passer. –christian petersen/getty images

Not long after his team’s latest race-up-the-field victory, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez was asked about the Wildcats’ next opponent, the Oregon Ducks.

‘‘Man, those dudes are fast,’’ Rodriguez said. ‘‘They have fast guys who play fast.’’

Rodriguez has a few of his own, setting up what could be the fastest game in the West — or anywhere — at Autzen Stadium in Eugene on Saturday night.

That’s when No. 22 Arizona (3-0), with the nonstop no-huddle offense Rodriguez helped innovate, takes on No. 3 Oregon (3-0) and Chip Kelly, the coach who put a rocket booster on RichRod’s original idea.

Scoreboard operators, get your fingers ready. Officials, loosen up your legs. Fans, don’t look away for too long.

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No need for a play clock.

‘‘There could be 300 plays in this game,’’ Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said.

OK, 300 might be a stretch, but 200 is certainly a possibility.

Oregon has run 259 plays this season. That’s an average of 86 per game, with a high of 96 in its 63-14 win over Tennessee Tech.

That’s still well behind Arizona, which has snapped it 280 times, two behind Marshall for most in the nation. The Wildcats had a school-record 102 in a 56-0 rollover of South Carolina State last weekend.

‘‘We’re very similar in the way we like to push the pace,’’ Rodriguez said.

And in the way they pile up yards and points.

Arizona is fourth nationally in total offense with 604.67 yards per game and 12th in scoring at 46.33 points. Oregon is seventh with 596.33 yards and fifth with 54 points.

To help you with the math, that puts them on pace for 100 points and 1,200 yards of offense Saturday night.

Arizona leads the nation in first downs with 108 and has 139 points for the season, 25 fewer than its 2004 team scored during an 11-game season. The Wildcats also have had two of the top three most prolific games in school history already this season, with 624 yards against Toledo and 689 against South Carolina State.

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Oregon, as has been the case under Kelly, has utilized the big play, scoring 23 touchdowns while averaging 27.25 minutes of possession per game. Arizona has been a little more methodical, scoring 18 touchdowns with an average time of possession of 31½ minutes.

‘‘They thrive on big plays and always have,’’ Rodriguez said. ‘‘They have guys that can take it.’’

Both teams do.

Oregon has playmakers that seem to rotate in like it’s a hockey game.

Do-everything back De’Anthony Thomas made sure the Ducks didn’t miss Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James, averaging 15.4 yards every time he touches the ball, whether it’s running, receiving, or returning punts.

There’s running back Kenjon Barner, quarterback Marcus Mariota, Keanon Lowe and 10 receivers averaging at least 10 yards per catch.

Arizona’s offense revolves around quarterback Matt Scott.

A projected star before spending two seasons behind Nick Foles, Scott has been a dynamic force in the desert after finally getting his shot. The fifth-year senior has been a perfect fit for Rodriguez’s read-option offense, ranking fourth nationally with 395 total yards per game. He’s the Pac-12’s leading passer with 995 yards and is eighth in rushing with 190 yards.

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