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Jason says: Ducks must get better, but should be good enough to turn back Wildcats

Here's what I expect from the Oregon Ducks in their Pac-12 opener, 7:30 p.m. Saturday against Arizona at Autzen Stadium:

Points.

Stops.

More mistakes.

And, a victory.

I'm inclined to believe that most of the teams on the Ducks' Pac-12 schedule (not Colorado) will challenge them in some way, and it starts with Arizona.

Watching the Wildcats, I like their spread offense and athletes. I really like dual-threat senior quarterback Matt Scott. They should be able to move the ball and score on the Ducks, as has been the case in the past several years in the UA-UO game.

The Wildcats need to run the ball for balance and game management.

But, can they stop the Ducks? Not for an entire game.

The Ducks have played three weaker nonleague foes, and they showed stretches of brilliance and susceptibility. Frankly, they shined at times and sucked at others.

The Ducks will be better on Saturday, and more consistent after working through issues in the first three games and gearing up for the grind of the Pac-12.

I've said it before: As long as quarterback Marcus Mariota, running back Kenjon Barner and running back/receiver/returner De'Anthony Thomas stay healthy, and the likes of tight end Colt Lyerla and receiver Josh Huff step up, it's full steam ahead for the offense. And, the defense has the ability to limit teams, if not stop them completely.

In the end, De'Anthony Thomas makes all the difference. He's a game-changer. He's virtually unstoppable.

The prominent concern is the offensive line, which has seen its share of injuries, including to its most veteran player, Carson York (out for the season, knee). So much of what Oregon does is predicated on winning the battle up front, as well as relying on perimeter blocking to establish its ground game.

Consistent pass protection and the run game can help carry Mariota as he faces better defenses and defensive coordinators in the Pac-12.

Another concern is the penalties, which could hurt the Ducks in closer games. I got a kick out of Thomas' comment after the Tennessee Tech game: "I feel like we're a very disciplined team. We do a lot of things right. I just feel like sometimes the refs are against us." For their sake, the Ducks need to focus on limiting penalties, and not blaming the officials.

And, clearly, if the Ducks engage in closer games, turnovers cannot happen.

It's going to be intriguing to watch Oregon navigate the Pac-12. Again, only Colorado looks like a rout on the horizon.

The three-time defending league champion Ducks are susceptible, but they also are very talented and well-coached, and their offense generally provides margin for error.

THE PICK: Oregon 41, Arizona 31