Pac-12 Championship: Oregon Ducks vs Utah Utes

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Joe Broback

Contributor at Champion Insiders
Joe is a writer covering the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football. He also currently writes for SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty, covering the American Athletic Conference since 2016. Joe enjoys collecting shoes, playing sports, and anything fitness related.
Joe Broback
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It’s been five years since the Pac-12 made it into the College Football Playoff. Both the Utah Utes and Oregon Ducks entered the 2019 season with playoff hopes, but only one can still make it. Utah needs one more team to lose, but a win should get them in the playoff. Oregon had their shot, but two losses eliminated them earlier this year. The Ducks won’t just lay down because Utah has a chance to get in the playoff, but the drought continues if they win this game.

Date: Friday, December 6th
Start time: 7:00pm CT
How to watch: ABC
Line: Utah -6
Location: Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, CA)

Impact Players

Utah Utes

RB Zack Moss
CB Jaylon Johnson
QB Tyler Huntley
DE Bradlee Anae
S Julian Blackmon

Oregon Ducks

QB Justin Herbert
RB CJ Verdell
WR Johnny Johnson III
LB Troy Dye
S Jevon Holland

Utah Utes Outlook

Kyle Whittingham’s teams normally enter the season as an underdog, but they tend to overachieve. This year, they were tabbed as one of the favorites in college football. A loss to USC hurt their chances of making the playoff, but now they have a great shot. If Georgia loses to LSU, the Utes should snag the fourth spot. How did they get here? The development of their 1-2 punch on offense, and a defense that lived up to their reputation.

Utah’s been running a Heisman campaign for quarterback Tyler Huntley, and it’s building him up even if he’s a long shot to win the award. He doesn’t have the statistics like other candidates (just 2,773 yards and 16 touchdowns passing), but he’s completed an astounding 75.5% of his passes. He’s efficient as a passer, and benefits from a workhorse at running back. Zack Moss saved his best season for last, rushing for 1,246 yards and 15 touchdowns already this year. They give Utah a formidable tandem that Oregon must stop in order to slow down this offense. If they struggle, Utah still has a chance thanks to their elite defense.

They haven’t received the attention they deserve, but Utah’s defense can play. After returning most of their starters, the Utes turned that experience into elite results. They’re allowing just 11.2 points per game (third in college football). Bradlee Anae (13.5 TFL, 8.5 sacks), Julian Blackmon (four interceptions), and Jaylon Johnson (10 passes defended) lead the way, but this group’s deep all around.

Oregon Ducks Outlook

A playoff run took a hit in Week 1 after their loss to Auburn, but it was still alive. Now, they sustained their second loss (eliminating them from playoff contention) and find themselves stumbling to the finish line. A stunning loss to Arizona State two weeks ago was tough to stomach, and the Ducks struggled to put away Oregon State last week. Yet they’re still in contention for a conference championship despite this. If their offense can get back to normal, they’ll give Utah a run.

Justin Herbert ended last year as a potential number one pick, but the 2019 season put a dent in his draft stock. His decision making regressed, and it’s cost the Ducks on multiple drives in multiple games. This offense remains full of playmakers, but they’ll only go as far as Herbert takes them. One of the best offensive lines in the country can only block so well. The Ducks are averaging 35.8 points per game, but it feels like 15.8 sometimes. Now they face a defense that puts pressure on the quarterback, and features one of the best secondaries in all of college football.

On defense, stopping Huntley and Moss on the ground becomes the primary focus. Huntley’s completing 75.5% of his passes, but forcing him to beat Oregon with his arm should help the Ducks defense. Utah’s offense can put up points in a hurry, but that’s with a balanced approach. Disrupting that flow gives Oregon an advantage defensively.

Prediction

Oregon lost their chance to get into the playoff, but now they can do the same to Utah. The Utes handled the pressure of being one of the favorites this year, and can make it a special year with a few more wins. A win Friday gives them their first Pac-12 championship, and gives them a chance to win much more. Oregon’s stumbling lately, which is weird to say about a 10 win team. Utah’s a team on a mission, and a win brings the Pac-12 back into the playoff, and that’s the difference. UTAH 35 OREGON 24

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