PAC-12 Conference Championship Preview
Oregon (10-2) vs Utah (9-3) -2.5 | O/U 60
Friday December 3rd @ 8:00pm EST
Allegiant Stadium – Las Vegas, NV
Yet another PAC-12 championship without College Football Playoff ramifications. I don’t think this comes as a surprise to many people that this is the case. But even so, this game still provides an intriguing storyline. With the Utes having throttled the Ducks 38-7 just two weeks ago. Both of these teams have played in the conference title game in 3 of the last 4 years, but this is there second time meeting in that span. The Utes are looking to repeat their success in Salt Lake City and win their first PAC-12 Championship game. While the Ducks are looking to win the conference for the 4th straight season.
When The Oregon Offense Is On The Field
The Oregon offense is built through their success on the ground, they run the ball on 56.8% of plays. This was a big reason why Utah was able to win in their first matchup. Quarterback Anthony Brown was forced to throw the ball 35 times, something he’d only done in 3 of the Ducks 12 regular season games.
The Ducks are 6th in the country in yards per rushing attempt at 5.5 yards per carry. They’ve been so efficient on the ground that they’ve always seemed to be ahead of schedule. When they get to third down their distances to go are usually very short, as a result they have the 2nd best 3rd down offense in college football. This extends to the red zone as well as they score a touchdown on 70% of their trips.
The Utes matched the Ducks efficiencies tremendously in the last meeting and have been doing it all season. Opponents are rushing for just 3.8 yards per attempt and in their last meeting with Oregon they had the Ducks well below their 54.5% third down conversion rate. Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd is the best defensive player in the PAC-12 not named Kayvon Thibodeaux and will play a big part in keeping the Ducks run game in check again on Friday.
The defense ranks 11th in stuff rate and 6th in standard downs sack rate. Oregon cannot afford to fall behind early like the previous meeting as it’ll make their offense too predictable. This is a very good offensive line for Oregon that with a wide open playbook can regain their form against this Utah front seven.
When The Utah Offense Is On The Field
After a rough start to the season for the Utah offense under Charlie Brewer they turned to Cameron Rising and never looked back. Rising has thrown for 2,109 yards, 17 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. The advanced stats love this offense as well, the Utes rank 3rd in drives that result in at least 1 first down. If your defense desperately needs a stop late in the game, this is not the team you want to be playing. They’re also 9th in drives that result in a touchdown. This may be the most underrated offense in all of college football.
The Utah offense is finding success in a similar way to Oregon as they run the ball on 56.1% of plays and rushing for 5.7 yards per carry. This is on the back of a fantastic offensive line that’s winning at the line of scrimmage, ranking 2nd in average line yards. But Oregon has been solid against the run, giving up an average of 3.6 yards per carry. They did not look good though in Salt Lake City, the Utes were creating massive gaps for their running backs. There were 2 third and goal rushing touchdowns for Utah.
The Ducks are the more talented team but they need to win at the first level of attack. It starts with Kayvon Thibodeaux and Noah Sewell in the front seven. We should be able to tell if this Oregon defense can hang around within the first few drives.
Utah 28 Oregon 20
I don’t see this game being dominated by Utah at quite the degree it was in the last meeting. But at the same time, winning at the line of scrimmage is not a fluke. Utah is just more physical at the line of scrimmage. I think Oregon will get creative with their use of Kayvon Thibodeaux but Tavion Thomas breaks off too many big plays for the Utes. Oregon won’t be able to get their defense off the field when they need it most and Cam Rising kneels out the final few minutes.