There is still a lot of disappointment after last weekend's 49-0 loss to Oregon, but in many ways Arizona is ahead of the game. Before the start of the season most Wildcats fans probably thought the team would be 2-2 or worse. When looking at the schedule, this week's game against Oregon State appeared to be the first "swing game" or toss-up game on the slate.
Jonathan McKnight knows OSU has speedy receivers.
To be fair, most of the games left on the schedule appear to be swing games. USC and Stanford appear to be clearly superior, while Colorado appears to be a game the Wildcats should win. The other five games seem to be against teams that are fairly similar.
There does not seem to be a ton of difference between teams like Washington, Utah, ASU, UCLA, Oregon State and the Wildcats. To go to a bowl game, the Wildcats must beat the Buffs and go at least 2-3 against the other five. If the Wildcats hope for better than a .500 season, then they have to win three or more of those "swing games."
Oregon State is up first and can really set the tone. The Beavers, like the Wildcats, have been a surprise this season. The Beavers missed the postseason the past two years, but have come out and taken down ranked Wisconsin and UCLA in successive weeks.
The Beavers have one of the better defenses in the Pac-12 and that will prove to be a challenge for an Arizona offense that was great for the first three games, but struggled against Oregon last week.
"They have good secondary players, some of the best in the country, but they are really strong up front," Rich Rodriguez said. "They roll a lot of guys. They have great size and play with great effort. They have been in that system for a while. They do some different things. They have a lot of movement up front. They really understand what coach [Mark] Banker and the defensive staff is trying to do there and do it with great technique and effort."
The Beavers are not as fast as the Ducks, but are more physical. The Wildcats had some success against a more physical Oklahoma State and it will not be a shock to see Arizona attack the Beavers in a similar fashion.
Offensively, the Beavers are not as potent as Oklahoma State and Duck, but they showed last week they can score some points. Arizona's defense has been a pleasant surprise this season and will need to play big against Sean Mannion and the Beavers.
"They had a lot of explosive plays last week, and they have some fast guys playing on the perimeter," said Rodriguez. "We have to play them very disciplined. We have tackled well for the most part and that is going to be another key to this game; tackling in the open field and getting guys down."
In fact, Jonathan McKnight said that Oregon State's receivers will be the fastest unit the team has faced so far this season.
At the minimum the Wildcats' goal should be a bowl game, but thanks to the upset of Oklahoma State, they can eye greater things. If they want to take those steps towards a good bowl, they need to pick off some of the swing games, and the Beavers are first up. Beating Oregon State could propel Arizona back towards success and get them that much closer to the postseason.