Facts and Factors
When Utah Has the Ball
The Utes will head to Eugene this weekend in a game where Utah's offense is going to have to put up a good amount of points if they want to come away with a victory. The Ducks average a ridiculous 51.7 points per game, and due to them pulling their starters early in a lot of their games, could be averaging more around 60 points per game. With this being said, Travis Wilson and the rest of Utah's offense needs to be on their A game in order to give the Utes a chance on Saturday.
Since beating Stanford, Travis Wilson just has not looked the same. The poise he had in the beginning of the season is now gone, and he looks very hesitant each time he throws the ball. Although, when a quarterback is only allowed about two seconds to throw the ball because his offensive line can't stop anybody, it would take some serious acting skills to illustrate any sort of comfort while running the offense. If the offensive line continues to perform at the level they have as of late, the Utes will be in for a very long afternoon in Eugene.
Regardless of if the offensive line shows any sort of improvement or not, moving the ball against Oregon's defense is going to be tough. The Ducks are stacked on defense with a tremendous amount of speed, and will have no problem keeping up with any of the Utes' offensive weapons. The Ducks do a good job stopping the run (rank 39th in the nation in rushing defense), and defending the pass (ranking 31st in the nation is passing defense). Cornerbacks Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell are two very good corners who will make it tough on Dres and the rest of the Utah receivers to create much space and give Wilson many easy looks. Senior linebacker Boseko Lokombo and junior defensive end Tony Washington play a huge role in this defense's success, and have racked up 84 tackles, 14 TFL, 9.5 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles between the two of them. Junior linebacker Derrick Malone is another linebacker who is going to make it difficult for Utah to put points up on the board against the Ducks, who allow just 17.9 PPG, which ranks them 10th in the country in that category.
The Utes have turned the ball over 19 times this season, with 17 of those being interceptions. If the Utes want to pull off the upset, they must not only win the turnover battle, but win it by a good margin. Wilson will need to make good decisions and not force anything against this Oregon defense that has 23 takeaways this season (13 INT's and 10 FR). Keeping Oregon's offense off the field as much as possible is the key to success on Saturday. And the way that happens is for Utah's offense to put together some long drives that eat a lot of time off the clock, and most importantly result in touchdowns.
Oregon may have suffered a heartbreaking defeat last week against Stanford, but don't expect a flock of uninspired Ducks to take the field this weekend. Their national championship hopes did in fact take a huge hit and probably are over, but the Pac-12 championship and a BCS bowl are still intact.
When Oregon Has the Ball
Speed, speed and more speed. The Oregon offense has a variety of options that can hurt and they all have one underlying characteristic, speed. It all starts with their incredibly efficient, Heisman candidate QB in Marcus Mariota. Mariota is the ultimate weapon in the Oregon offense, as he can hurt any defense using his arm or legs, after all, there's a reason he's in the discussion for the Heisman trophy. Having thrown 22 TD's and 0 interceptions, Mariota makes very little mistakes, and does a great job of spreading the ball around to his weapons on offense. At running back, sophomore Byron Marshall is the work horse as he leads the team with 141 rushes for 925 yards and 12 TD's, while averaging a ridiculous 6.6 YPC. Marshall is a good balanced running back, as he is stout enough to run between the tackles and take a beating, but also has the elite speed to out run defensive backs.
Deanthony Thomas is next notable weapon on the Oregon offense, and while he's been banged up for the majority of the season, he's somebody that can take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Thomas is one of the fastest players in the entire country, but has great agility that allows him to make cuts on a dime. The RB/WR most likely won't be 100%, but he's somebody you have to account for every play. At WR, the Ducks have a great group of talented receivers that for the most part go underrated through out the conference. The go to guy out there is senior Josh Huff. Huff has 41 catches for 745 yards and 6 TD's, and has good size and speed to be a threat down the field. After Huff, sophomore Bralon Addison is the next guy up, as he is close to matching Huff's numbers, with 43 catches for 675 yards and 7 TD's. Addison is more of speed threat on the outside, as the Ducks like to throw a lot of screens his way, and get him in space to just let him do his thing. Both Addison and Huff are dangerous with the ball in their hands, but they're also both extremely good blocker out on the edge, and that's what makes their offense work. They're able to get 100% out of their WR's each and every run play, and that helps free up those RB's in space.
Utah Will Win If....
Cella- Utah wins if the offense can produce at least 4 touchdown drives lasting 5 minutes or longer, the Utes remain turnover free and the defense produces 3 Oregon turnovers.
Gorringe- Utes win if the don't have any turnovers, force 3 of more Oregon turnovers, and the defense has the best performance of Kyle Whittinghams career.
Karren- Utah will win if the offensive line dominates, if Utah wins the turnover battle by 2+, and if they hold Oregon to less than 30 points.
Olson- The offensive line proves to have miraculously figured out their problems and has their best game yet. The defense must cause 3+ turnovers.
Swinney- Utah will they don't turn the ball over, force two or more Oregon turnovers, can hold Oregon under 200 yards on the ground, and the offensive line comes up with a Stanford-like effort. That, or the Oregon football team falls into a sinkhole while entering the stadium.
Cella- Oregon 45 Utah 17
Gorringe- Oregon 34 Utah 13
Karren- Oregon 44 Utah 20
Olson- Oregon 41 Utah 20
Swinney- Oregon 59 Utah 10
Game Preview: Utah at Oregon
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