Can Utah and Utah State polish off Oregon and Wyoming in their respective Pac-12 and Mountain West showdowns on Saturday?
The Utes are taking on the No. 3-ranked Oregon Ducks, a team that would be “in” the College Football Playoff if it were held this weekend. Yet, Utah is favored by three points by folks who make a living predicting that kind of stuff.
Either Oregon is vastly overrated since the Ducks’ win over Ohio State and loss to Stanford, or Utah is massively underappreciated since losing to BYU and San Diego State.
Oregon is ranked higher in the CFP standings than Ohio State, undefeated Cincy, and 9-1 Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame.
It could just be that a game between Pac-12 divisional leaders is considered basically a tossup with Utah given three points for home field.
Well, there are reasons Utah will beat Oregon: Duck feathers are ripe to be plucked.
The mighty Ducks are away from Autzen Stadium and the Phil Knight Nike pillow. They’ve had three weeks of double-digit wins but they’ve won over teams working with lame-duck head coaches (Washington, Washington State) and a bad Colorado team.
Oregon has two of its top four receivers questionable for this game, including Johnny Johnson III and tight end DJ Johnson. Receiver Mycah Pittman left the team for the transfer portal this week after seeing limited targets in recent games.
Utah QB Cam Rising is more than capable of attacking the Ducks’ defense through the air and with his feet. Utah has a great supporting cast in the run game with Tavion Thomas, T.J. Pledger and Micah Bernard. In this regard, Utah is more capable of attacking Oregon in more ways than Washington or certainly Colorado.
It will boil down to turnovers. Utah cannot afford to muff a punt or have one blocked, something generally stupid.
The fact these two teams will likely face off in a couple of weeks in the league championship game can produce some psychological challenges, perhaps a letdown, but I don’t believe either Kyle Whittingham or Mario Cristobal are the type of guys who’ll be weighing that at the expense of the moment.
Utah throws a net over Oregon’s multidimensional back Travis Dye and the Utes win.
Oregon finds a way to control the ball and chew up the clock with Dye and QB Anthony Brown, and the Utes are in trouble.
Utah beat Stanford 52-7, which beat Oregon 31-24 in overtime, therefore in the meaningless domino win game comparison, Utah is better in comparative games by a score of 83-21.
Oregon beat Fresno State 31-24 and the Bulldogs beat San Diego State 30-20; the Aztecs edged Utah 33-31, so, if you count those three comparative games, Oregon is better than Utah by 94-75.
The comparative difference in the above game puzzle gives Utah a cumulative point advantage differential of 53, albeit with one more game plugged in for Oregon.
The Ducks have sensational end rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and former Orem High star Noah Sewell on defense. Utah has stud tackler Devin Lloyd. It will be a showdown of defensive Pac-12 stardom.
In Logan, the Aggies will host Wyoming on Senior Day and Blake Anderson is sniffing a Mountain Division title. The Cowboys are formidable and will have USU on full alert, but Wyoming has a huge task at hand to stop USU’s pass attack, which has proven to deliver filthy bombs consistently in MWC play.
No. 14 BYU travels to Georgia Southern in a tuneup for the season finale at USC. After a week off, head coach Kalani Sitake wants to focus on execution, assignment-sound play and respect for the Eagle option attack by not taking this trip lightly.