9:00 PM ET, November 15, 2007
Arizona Stadium, TUCSON, AZ
The recent bye week was beneficial for Dennis Dixon and the entire Oregon program.
With their quarterback healthy and expected to start, the second-ranked Ducks return to action Thursday night when they visit Arizona in a Pac-10 matchup.
Oregon (8-1, 5-1) hasn't played since beating then-No. 6 Arizona State 35-23 on Nov. 3 to hand the Sun Devils their first loss of the season. It came a week after the Ducks beat then-No. 9 Southern California 24-17.
The Ducks moved into the No. 3 spot in the poll following the win over Arizona State and went up one more position last week without playing after then-No. 1 Ohio State was upset by Illinois. Oregon's current ranking is its highest since ending the 2001 season at No. 2.
Oregon is also second in the BCS standings and could possibly earn a spot in the national title game -- or at least the Rose Bowl -- if it wins its final three games, starting Thursday at Arizona (4-6, 3-4).
The Ducks will be trying for a sixth straight road win in the series, but the Wildcats snapped a seven-game overall losing streak to Oregon with a 37-10 victory last Nov. 18.
After Thursday, Oregon plays at UCLA before closing the season at home versus Oregon State.
"When you start thinking about national championship and the Rose Bowl, you can get ahead of yourself," Oregon cornerback Walter Thurmond said. "We don't want to do that."
Dixon, who completed 13 of 22 passes for 189 yards and four touchdowns against Arizona State, is likely to start despite spraining his left knee in the fourth quarter of that game.
The Heisman Trophy candidate has thrown for 2,074 yards with 20 touchdowns and rushed for 549 yards and eight scores. He's had time to heal and appears healthy enough to help the Ducks try for their fifth consecutive victory since a 31-24 home loss to then-No. 6 California on Sept. 29.
"He is doing all the things necessary of a Heisman candidate," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said. "He's winning football games. He's leading his team."
The 6-foot-4 senior hopes for a better outing against Arizona on Thursday after going 14-for-22 for 88 yards with three interceptions in last season's loss.
While Dixon and the nation's fifth-ranked offense are averaging 41.7 points during the four-game winning streak, Oregon's defense has played better than its No. 74 ranking in recent weeks.
The Ducks have forced five turnovers in their last two games, held USC to its lowest point total of the season and recorded nine sacks against Arizona State.
"People put aside their defense because of all the stars they have offensively," Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said. "They're an awfully good defensive team, and they were against USC and obviously they were against us."
Oregon, though, must overcome the loss of starting middle linebacker John Bacon, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
Arizona, meanwhile, was also idle last weekend and will try for its third straight win after beating UCLA 34-27 on Nov. 3.
"You can see our team getting more confident each week," Arizona coach Mike Stoops told the school's official Web site.
Junior Willie Tuitama was 21-for-36 for 341 yards and three touchdowns for the Pac-10's top passing offense against the Bruins.
Tuitama, eighth in the nation with 314.5 passing yards per contest, has thrown for 851 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception in his last two games, which included a 48-41 win at Washington on Oct. 27.
Tuitama has thrown for 3,145 yards and needs 183 to set the school's single-season record. He was efficient in last season's win over Oregon, going 8-for-9 for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
Arizona is looking to avoid its third consecutive loss to a Top 25 opponent since a 24-20 victory over then-No. 8 California on Nov. 11, 2006.
Top 25 Overview
After Oregon moved up to No. 2 in the BCS standings during the bye week, the Ducks will try to secure a spot in the title game, begining with a trip to Arizona. Oregon will also be looking for a little revenge after losing to the Wildcats last season.
|Avg Points Allowed||23.2||27.5|