Asked to describe games against highly ranked teams, coach Mike Stoops typically responds with four words: "Shoot, they're all big."
They don't get much bigger than this week.
The 20th-ranked Arizona Wildcats will take on No. 1 Oregon on Friday in Eugene, Ore., with the nation watching. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN to a country eager to see if the Ducks are national championship material. Early betting lines list Oregon as a 20-point favorite against a Wildcats team looking to snap a two-game losing streak.
"You want to get up and show what you're capable of," co-defensive coordinator Greg Brown said.
"It's a national TV audience. Everybody's going to be watching, and somebody's going to be teaching a lesson. Either they're going to teach us a lesson, or we're going to teach them."
The Wildcats will try to play spoiler, something the program has done twice in eight previous shots against No. 1-ranked teams. Arizona edged USC's juggernaut 13-10 in 1981 and stunned Washington 16-3 in 1992. Their six losses - to Washington (1982 and 1984), UCLA (1988), Miami (1992) and USC (2004 and 2005) - have come by an average of 18.2 points.
For Arizona (7-3 overall, 4-3 Pac-10), Friday's game marks a chance to pull off an upset while improving its own bowl chances. The Wildcats were routed by Stanford and edged by USC in the last two weeks in games that were, like this one, on national television.
Wide receiver David Roberts said Arizona will happily embrace the spoiler's role.
"We might be the underdog but we ain't gonna play like it," Roberts said.
Wade regains starting job
Two weeks after entering Stoops' doghouse, cornerback Trevin Wade is close to regaining his starting job.
Stoops said Monday that Wade, and not true freshman Shaquille Richardson, will be charged with stopping Oregon's "Blur" offense. Wade was benched midway through the Wildcats' Nov. 6 loss to Stanford and did not start in the following week's loss to USC.
"He's got a great attitude. He's getting into it, practicing 100 miles an hour," Brown said. "My hat's off to him. His back was against the wall, and he came out swinging."
Running backs Nicolas Grigsby and Greg Nwoko (ankle sprains), wide receiver David Roberts (concussion) and backup quarterback Matt Scott (sprained wrist) should all play against Oregon, Stoops said.
Scott, considered the least likely of the group to play, practiced both Sunday and Monday nights. Scott injured his wrist in the fourth quarter of Arizona's Oct. 30 win over UCLA; he did not dress in the Stanford and USC games.
"He's progressed well," Stoops said of Scott. "We feel like he'll be an option; to what extent, I think, will depend on how he feels Friday."
Stoops would not speculate on Scott's role; coaches could use the speedy backup as a change-of-pace to pocket passer Nick Foles.
"I don't know how that will affect the gameplan," he said. "If we feel like that gives us an opportunity to do things with him, then we'll look at him."
In parts of six games, Scott, a junior, has thrown for 772 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 125 yards.
Both quarterbacks are off-limits to the media before Friday's game, Stoops said.
Cats to celebrate before leaving town
The Wildcats will celebrate Thanksgiving in Tucson before leaving for Oregon.
The team will have a 12:30 p.m. Thanksgiving meal on Thursday before departing for the Pacific Northwest. Once in Eugene, Ore., the Wildcats will have their regular team meal and late-night snack.
Though playing on or near the holidays are a fact of life for players and coaches, Stoops said he "almost likes" playing the day after Thanksgiving instead of on a Saturday.
"It may seem odd, but it'll be easier this way," he said. "A lot less distractions."
BY THE NUMBERS
Arizona's all-time record against No. 1-ranked teams
Arizona's last win over a team ranked No. 1.
The last time Arizona played a top-ranked team. USC rolled the Wildcats 42-21 in Los Angeles.
• What: Arizona at Oregon
• When: 5 p.m. Friday
• TV: ESPN
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM