How big is this showdown between No. 4 Oregon and No. 24 Utah? It’s on ABC
The Utes, leaders of the Pac-12 South, have won six of their last seven games and they jumped back into the Associated Press poll Sunday for the first time since mid-September.
It’s the Pac-12 Game of the Year — and its importance has been acknowledged.
ABC will televise Saturday’s clash between No. 4 Oregon and No. 24 Utah at 5:30 p.m. MST at Rice-Eccles Stadium, it was announced Sunday morning.
It’s a matchup worthy of a national stage.
Oregon (9-1, 6-1), which is in first place in the Pac-12 North, has a victory at No. 5 Ohio State on its resume.
The Utes (7-3, 6-1), leaders of the Pac-12 South, have won six of their last seven games and they jumped back into the Associated Press poll Sunday for the first time since mid-September.
Both teams are ranked and both need one more victory to clinch their respective division titles.
And, yes, this could be a preview of the Pac-12 championship game in Las Vegas on Dec. 3.
There are College Football Playoff, Pac-12 championship and bowl implications all on the line when the Ducks and Utes collide.
The stakes couldn’t be much higher.
Saturday against Arizona, the Utes survived a bit of a scare. They trailed late in the first half and led by only two late in the fourth quarter before earning a 38-29 victory in Tucson.
But perhaps that challenge was just what Utah needed heading into this showdown with Oregon.
“It’s always good when you have to face adversity and be in another situation that you have to overcome, especially as a team as a whole,” said quarterback Cam Rising, who completed 19 of 30 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns against the Wildcats.
“We did a great job with that (Saturday). That’s going to help us going forward.”
Rising led a game-clinching, 15-play, 8-minute drive that covered 75 yards in the waning moments.
T.J. Pledger, who rushed for 119 yards, scored on a 2-yard run with 2:10 remaining.
“The bottom line is, we got another win. We have two games to go,” said coach Kyle Whittingham. “All we’re thinking about is the next one, obviously, with Oregon coming to town.
“We’re done with the road games, at least in regular season play. We’ll enjoy this until (Sunday) and then we’ll get right back to the next opponent.”
The Ducks held on late Saturday night for a 38-24 home victory against Washington State.
Quarterback Anthony Brown passed for 135 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 123 yards and another TD. Running back Travis Dye rushed 18 times for 88 yards and a score.
Star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux had two tackles and a sack against the Cougars.
Last week, Oregon, which has won five straight games, checked in at No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings.
‘’Every game is a playoff game. Us having this target on our backs, it makes every team want to play their best,” Thibodeaux said.
“You know, one thing that we had a problem with was playing down to teams, and now I feel like we’re in that mode where teams have to play up to us.’’
Oregon and WSU were tied at halftime before the Ducks pulled away in the second half.
Saturday night, Oregon needed Stanford to beat Oregon State to win the Pac-12 North but the Beavers beat the Cardinal.
Hours after Utah beat Arizona, the Utes were monitoring the outcome of the Arizona State-Washington game.
The Sun Devils overcame a 14-point deficit to beat the Huskies, 35-30, including the game-winner with 1:11 remaining on a 10-yard touchdown run by Rachaad White.
ASU scored three fourth-quarter TDs.
With the win, Arizona State (7-3, 5-2) remains in contention for the Pac-12 South title.
Utes on the air
No. 3 Oregon (9-1, 6-1)
at No. 23 Utah (7-3, 6-1)
Saturday, 5:30 p.m. MST
Radio: ESPN 700
Utah needs one more win to clinch the South championship in one of their final two games — Saturday against Oregon or Nov. 26 against Colorado.
Or one more loss by the Sun Devils would give the Utes the crown, as ASU must win out to capture the South because Utah won the tie-breaker by virtue of its victory over the Sun Devils last month.
ASU finishes the season on the road against Oregon State and then at home against arch-rival Arizona.
Utah offensive linemen Nick Ford and Paul Maile and defensive back Faybian Marks all had to leave Saturday’s game due to injuries and they received medical treatment.
Whittingham said those injuries could have an impact on next week’s lineup.
“We’ll assess that (Sunday),” Whittingham said. “As of right now, there are probably three or four guys that we don’t know enough about that it could be something serious.”