By Steven Herrera
Utah Quarterback & Wide Receivers vs. Oregon State Secondary
Travis Wilson will need to have a short memory and show some mental toughness after last week’s game. Most importantly, Wilson will have to get back to making smart decisions with the football. The senior quarterback will have a great opportunity to get back into a rhythm and build some momentum against the Beavers. Kenneth Scott and Tyrone Smith will need to do a better job of creating separation and contributing to the offense than they did against USC. Britain Covey will create match up problems as long as he is given the opportunity.
The Oregon State secondary has only come up with two of the team’s seven interceptions thus far, with both interceptions coming from the safety position. In seven games, only two quarterbacks have passed for over 200 yards (Anu Solomon and Luke Falk) against the Beavers, though this is because opposing teams usually have a sizeable lead throughout the game. Senior cornerback Larry Scott’s status for Saturday’s game is unknown due to injury.
Utah Running Backs & Tight Ends vs. Oregon State Linebackers
Not even going to waste time detailing how great Devontae Booker is. Everyone should know what kind of impact Booker can have by now. It’s up to the Utah coaches to get Booker the ball as often as they can without becoming overly predictable. The tight end position is a bit thin depth wise. Harrison Handley provides a great target for Wilson and is a capable blocker. If Utah utilizes two tight end sets, Hampel will likely get the call, but it would not be shocking to see another player get some reps.
The linebacker corps might be the strength of the Beaver defense. Rommel Maego leads the team in tackles and has two interceptions on the season. The junior linebacker also has two force fumbles on the season and is definitely capable of making Utah pay if Wilson makes bad decisions. Caleb Saulo, Manase Hungalu, and Ricky Ortiz have all come down with one interception, with Saulo also forcing a fumble. However, the Beavers have given up major yards on the ground this season, with Arizona and Stanford rushing for well over 300 yards.
Utah Offensive Line vs. Oregon State Defensive Line
The Utah offensive line got dominated a week ago against a bad USC defense. Typically physical, the Trojan defense bullied the Utes offensive line last week and won the battle in the trenches. Linemen losing one-on-one matchups have cost Utah dearly and force Travis Wilson to make decisions under pressure, which should be major concern after last week. Left tackle has been a position of inconsistent and sub-par performance, whether Sam Tevi or Jackson Barton play. Utah was able to generate some push up front last year against Oregon State and will have a great chance to do so this year.
The Oregon State defensive line has been less than stellar and takes he lion’s share of blame for the Beaver’s poor run defense. Despite being very stout in size, the Beaver’s defensive line has been ran on at will and has a combined 5.5 sacks on the season. To put that in perspective, Pita Taumoepenu has six sacks on the season and gets in the game on passing situations only.
Oregon State Quarterback & Wide Receivers vs. Utah’s Secondary
Oregon State will likely play two quarterbacks against Utah on Saturday, both of whom are freshman. Seth Collins is a legitimate threat on the ground but lacks the ability to hurt Utah by throwing. Nick Mitchell is a better passer than Collins but that isn’t saying much. Neither quarterback is at the caliber of Cody Kessler, Jared Goff, or even Mike Bercovici. Victor Bolden and Jordan Villamin will lead the Beavers at wide receiver. Both have caught 26 passes on the season with Villamin leading the team in receiving yards and touchdown receptions. Villamin will create a matchup problem due to his 6’5” height.
Utah’s secondary has been up and down this season. Kessler and JuJu Smith-Schuster made light work of the secondary while Jared Goff had the exact opposite experience. Reggie Porter, Dominique Hatfield, and Corey Butler-Byrd have all been exposed during their time outside while Justin Thomas has been generally solid playing in the slot. Marcus Williams has been playing at a high level all season while Tevin Carter has largely struggled. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Hansen, Thompson, or someone else getting reps while Carter watches from the sidelines this week. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see Brian Allen come in to cut away at Villamin’s height advantage.
Oregon State Running Backs and Tight Ends vs. Utah’s Linebackers
Seth Collins is Oregon State’s leading rusher and might see some time at the running back position with Mitchell at quarterback. Storm Woods is the full time running back for the Beavers and has 352 yards on the season. While Woods’ total yards are not impressive, his 5.3 yards per carry shows how capable the senior is at running the ball. Ryan Nall had a nice game against Colorado last week, rushing for 122 yards while averaging 6.1 per carry. At 6’2”, Nall can hurt Utah if the Utes are not wrapping up while tackling. Oregon State tight ends have not had much impact in the pass game this season. Noah Togiai will likely get some playing time against Utah as he returns to his home state.
Gionni Paul is a force to be reckoned with. Coming off a monster week against USC, Paul will need to have a similar performance against a Beaver team that can run the ball. If Jared Norris plays, Utah’s linebacker corps will dominate. If Norris can’t play, Whittingham and Masina will most likely hinder the entire defense. The two back up linebackers simply lack the awareness and physicality Norris brings to the Utah defense.
Edge: Utah w/Norris. Even w/o Norris
Oregon State Offensive Line vs. Utah Defensive Line
Starting left tackle Sean Harlow is out with an injury and the Beavers are still trying to find his replacement with right guard Isaac Seumalo even stepping over there and taking some reps, but you'll likely see sophomore Will Hopkins over there getting his first career start with Seumalo, who is arguably the best offensive lineman in the conference, sliding back to his guard spot. Big Fred Lauina is a first year starter and will down the left guard spot and center Josh Mitchel has 15 starts under his belt. Junior Justin Stanton is in his second year as a starter at right tackle and is a big 6-6, 300 pounder. They are helping open up some holes on the ground with the Beavers going for over 189 yards per game, and the pass protection has been adequate having given up 13 sacks on the year.
The Utah defensive line should be able to physically dominate the line of scrimmage in typical Utah fashion. On the season, Utah’s defensive line has accounted for 16.5 sacks out of Utah’s 20 total sacks. If Utah jumps ahead early in the game forcing the Beavers to become pass heavy, Taumoepenu and Fitts should be able to feast on the opposing quarterback. The real test for the defensive line will be keeping Seth Collins contained in the pocket and taking away his ability to scramble.
You never quite know which special teams unit from Utah is going to show up. Last week, the unit played spectacularly, covering kicks and punts well while Phillips and Hackett kicked well. Covey even made the most out of his limited opportunities in the punt return game. Hopefully, that carries into this week and benefits the Utes.
The Beavers have had some success in the return game with 33.6 yards per kick return, including a 100 yarder for a TD. Rahmel Dockery is averging 19.1 yards per return. Dockery doesn't do much on punt returns with an average of only 6.8. Kicker Garrett Owens os 8 for 11 on the season with a long of 50. Punter Nick Porebski is averaging 41.2 per punt.