Utah Offensive Line vs Oregon State Defensive Line
Utah Offensive Line
When the Utah offensive line finally reached full health, many Ute fans believed they would be a force on the line of scrimmage. Sadly, though, they've been anything but that. Anchors Tony Bergstrom and John Cullen are without question the most disappointing players on the line. While statistically they're both winning a large percentage of their matchups, over the last three weeks they've both been guilty at times of missing blocks completely, they allow way too much pressure in the pass game, and altogether they've been a major letdown in the two most important positions on the line. While both are very skilled players, they seem to be overmatched and outplayed at times from equally skilled Pac-12 defenders. On the inside of the line Sam Brenner, Tevita Stevens, and Miles Mason have been good but need better production in the run game.
Oregon State Defensive Line
Dylan Wynn, Andrew Seumalo, Kevin Frahm, and Scott Crichton anchor a strong defensive front for the Beavers, even without starter Castro Masaniai who was lost to injury during the BYU game. Crichton is the player to watch from this unit as he's piled up 42 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 4(!) forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery. He co-leads the Pac-12 in tackles for loss, and he's also broken up 4 passes this season making him a multi-talented and very dangerous defensive lineman. On the other side Dylan Wynn has been very opportunistic recovering a total of 5 fumbles this season. As a unit they defend the pass well and have accumulated 5 total sacks but are allowing a whopping 145 yards per game on the ground. Utah has been a little Jekyl-and-Hyde in the run game but could be set up for success this week given the recent results of OSU opponents.
Utah Running Backs and Tight Ends vs Oregon State Linebackers
Utah Running Backs and Tight Ends
John White continued his up-and-down 2011 campaign with a disappointing effort against Cal. After rushing for 171 yards against Pittsburgh the week before White followed up with a miserable 39-yard effort in San Francisco. The offensive line wasn't spectacular, but they can't shoulder all of the blame either. White struggled in traffic and wasn't able to reach the second level more than once or twice. Utah's quarterback struggles allowed Cal to stack the box and defend the run with 8 or 9 men leaving White very little room to operate. The Utah tight ends failed to catch a pass last week against Cal. The injury to Dallin Rogers may have a bigger impact than expected. Rogers and Jon Hays seemed to have a little chemistry together before Rogers went down for the season against Pitt. It's crucial that Jake Murphy and Kendrick Moeai establish a presence in the pass game to help relieve some of the defensive pressure against the run.
Oregon State Linebackers
Injuries are really taking a toll on the Oregon State linebackers. Starting middle linebacker Feti Unga will once again be out of the lineup for the Beavers on Saturday as he continues to recover from ligament damage in his knee suffered two weeks ago against BYU. Unga's backup Tony Wilson was also injured in the game against the Cougars but was able to return to action last week. Outside linebacker Cameron Collins suffered a groin injury against BYU and was held out of last week's game. Collins is listed as questionable for Saturday's game against the Utes. That leaves Reuben Robinson and Michael Doctor to play outside linebacker with depth becoming a major concern for Oregon State. The three starters, Wilson, Doctor, and Robinson are capable players but with no depth behind them Utah should see a boost in the run game, especially in the second half as the starters wear down.
Utah Quarterback and Wide Receivers vs Oregon State Corners and Safeties
Utah Quarterback and Wide Receivers
The hopes Ute fans had a month ago that Jon Hays could develop into a serviceable Pac-12 quarterback are rapidly fading. Last weekend's game against Cal statistically wasn't his worst game of the season, but completions and passing yards aren't everything. Utah's longest offensive drive of the game totaled just seven plays, and that came in the fourth quarter when the score was well out of reach. Seven of Utah's first eight possessions lasted just three plays or less and the Utes only had four drives longer than five plays. That is abysmal offense, and it all starts with the quarterback. Hays is struggling with his reads and has been delivering the ball too slowly. Way too often he holds on to the ball too long forcing himself to rush his throws after DBs have recovered or when pass rushers are in his face. Utah's wide receivers have been very average as well. Dropped passes have become a bit of a problem lately and it's clear the absence of Devonte Christopher has hurt the team. He is listed as probable on Saturday.
Oregon State Corners and Safeties
Cornerback Jordan Poyer will present a major challenge for Jon Hays and still-recovering DeVonte Christopher. Poyer leads the Beaver secondary in pass breakups and interceptions with 10 and 3 respectively. The defensive backfield as a group is very opportunistic; each of the starters at corner and safety has recorded at least one interception and pass breakup this season. Expect the Beavers to load the box similar to the way Cal defended the Utes. The Beaver corners are good enough to slow down the Utah receivers which means Jon Hays will likely struggle again on Saturday. Hays hasn't been able to beat opposing defenses deep, so Oregon State will be able to bring their secondary close to the line and dare the Utes to throw. Hays will need to make smarter, quicker decisions or he could easily be looking at another two or three interception game.
EDGE: Oregon State
Utah Defensive Line vs Oregon State Offensive Line
Utah Defensive Line
The Ute defensive line continues to be the strong-point of the team, but they, like the rest of the defense, are suffering from a lack of offense generated on the other side of the ball. They worked hard last week to hold Cal running back Isi Sofele under 100-yards and one of his lowest yard-per-carry averages of the season. That being said, they didn't generate a lot of pressure against the pass allowing quarterback Zach Maynard to throw for over 250 yards, pick up third-down conversions, and extend drives. This is still the core of the Utah defense and will be strong against Oregon State but they'll need to generate a better pass rush if they expect the same type of result they saw against Pittsburgh. Utah's stars will need to be playmakers this week including nose tackle Star Lotulelei who will face an injured Oregon State center. If he can create problems in the middle he can significantly alter the Beaver run game all by himself.
Oregon State Offensive Line
Three seniors at left tackle, center, and guard are the key to the Oregon State offensive line. Mark Remmers, Grant Johnson, and Burke Ellis are experienced linemen that have been the key to the recent Beaver turnaround. Run and pass production is way up for Oregon State and it all starts on their line. Though their offensive numbers don't top the conference, they've been much better since their very slow start to the season including a 100-yard rushing effort and over 375 yards passing last week against Washington State. Numbers like those don't happen unless the offensive line is doing its job. Ute end Joe Kruger will have the most difficult battle of the afternoon against Remmers, and Derrick Shelby should expect a fight from junior Colin Kelly as well. Utah will likely utilize stunts and blitzes to confuse this line in order to create the pressure it needs against the pass.
Utah Linebackers vs Oregon State Running Backs and Tight Ends
Utah's pass defense has been its defensive weakness for three or four weeks now and it's an issue in part because of the linebackers. While Chaz Walker, Matt Martinez, and Trevor Reilly may be great against the run they've been equally as poor against the pass. Their skill set is such that they're great close to the line of scrimmage but not so great in open space. This has given opponents throwing lanes on dig routes and passes to the flats because the linebackers can't seem to cover the required space quickly enough to defend these types of passes. Reilly has done a fantastic job pressuring the quarterback and will be asked to do so again this week while Walker and Martinez do their best to dominate against the run.
Oregon State Running Backs and Tight Ends
Malcolm Agnew is one of many terrific running backs in the Pac-12, but he hasn't had a chance to show what he's fully capable of because of health issues this season. Last week vs Washington State he finally looked like the running back everybody knew he could be when he rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown against the Cougars. He's still a little banged up and may not be able to run as much as he did last week, but he's explosive and can be dangerous whenever he touches the ball. Backup Jovan Stevenson is also very talented but is nursing a knee injury that has him currently listed as questionable for Saturday. At tight end, Joe Halahuni is a beast to cover. He's a big body with great hands who knows how to find open space to catch the ball. He's scored three times this season and could cause coverage problems for Matt Martinez. Watch for Brian Blechen to cover him occasionally from the safety position.
Utah Corners and Safeties vs Oregon State Quarterback and Wide Receivers
Utah Corners and Safeties
Blechen's move to safety hasn't slowed his production on the field. His 10 tackles, including two tackles for loss against the Bears led the team. Blechen is a multi-talented defender who excels at multiple positions. He'll once again start at strong safety for Utah and as was mentioned before will likely matchup against Joe Halahuni for a large part of the afternoon. True freshman free safety Eric Rowe injured his knee last week and may miss his first start of the season. If Rowe can't play on Saturday both Michael Walker and Quade Chappuis will split time in his absence. Corner Mo Lee has come on strong in the Utah secondary. He has replaced Ryan Lacy as the starting second corner behind Conroy Black which has allowed Utah to utilize Lacy as the nickel defender in pass coverage. Lee dropped two near-interceptions last week but has been solid in pass coverage, consistently putting himself in position to break up passes.
Oregon State Quarterback and Wide Receivers
Sean Mannion didn't start the season at quarterback for the Beavers but quickly replaced the ineffective Ryan Katz week two against Wisconsin. As just a redshirt freshman Mannion took a couple of weeks to get up to speed but has really come on strong as of late. His passing yards per game have increased each of the last three weeks capped by his 376 yard 4 touchdown performance at Washington State last week. It helps that Mannion has a group extremely talented receivers to throw to. Much like Cal's Keenan Allen, Marcus Wheaton is a deadly threat on the outside capable of beating even the best of the Pac-12's corners. Wheaton is sure to make life miserable for Conroy Black for four straight quarters. James Rodgers, brother of Jacquizz Rodgers, is another very talented receiver who is utilized in many different ways by the Beavers. Watch for the fly-sweeps on the ground as well as quick screens and flat routes to get Rodgers the ball. Once it's in his hands he is very good at making plays. Wheaton and Rodgers will be a tough test for Utah's Black, Lacy, and Lee all game long.
EDGE: Oregon State
Unit Matchups - Oregon State at Utah
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