College Football

Utah and Oregon Square Off Once Again in PAC 12 Title Game

Utah Faces Oregon in the PAC 12 title game.,llk73ere7erruw34mjlo  m
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Just two weeks after dominating Oregon 38-7, Utah will take on the Ducks again in the PAC 12 title game. The Utes will look to secure their first ever PAC 12 title, as well as their first trip to the Rose Bowl in program history. Meanwhile, Oregon will be looking to end a solid 10-2 season on a high note with their third conference title in a row. The highly anticipated rematch is sure to be one of the more entertaining games of the weekend.

Can Utah Do it Again?

Utah could not have asked for a better finish to their season. The Utes won their final five games in convincing fashion to secure the PAC 12 South crown. However, it is always tough to beat the same team twice in a season, yet alone twice in three weeks.

In order to punch a ticket to their first ever Rose Bowl, Tavion Thomas will have to carry the Utah offense once again. Thomas had 21 carries for 94 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first match up. When Thomas is rolling, quarterback Cam Rising can operate comfortably from the pocket and pick apart defenses. Aside from the run game, Utah also relies heavily on their tight ends Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid. With a star running back and two receiving threats at tight end, Utah will look to expose Oregon’s linebackers and put them in tough positions all game long.

On the defensive side of the ball, Utah does have some room for improvement. Despite only giving up 7 to Oregon last time around, the Utes defense gave up 294 yards. 6 of 8 Oregon drives ended in Utah territory, and Utah was bailed out multiple times by the Ducks self inflicted wounds. Utah did a fantastic job stopping the run and stepping up in clutch situations, but it is unlikely Oregon will beat themselves so many times in the rematch. The Utes will need to keep the same run scheme while giving their secondary a little more help on Friday. If the Ducks find 6 scoring opportunities again, it may not end as well for the Utes defense.

Can Oregon Bounce Back?

Oregon was able to recover somewhat after their loss to Utah with a win over rival Oregon State. But for a team with playoff aspirations until week 11, it is easy to view a potential Rose Bowl trip as a consolation prize. Head coach Mario Cristobal now has to reset his team and find a way to ensure a promising season does not end on a sour note.

Offensively, Oregon must establish the run game. Leading rusher Travis Dye only had 6 carries for 29 yards in the first meeting. As the focal point of the Ducks offense, he will need to play a much bigger role if Oregon is to win on Friday. Quarterback Anthony Brown will also need to be more efficient through the air. Brown’s completion percentage has dipped to 64% on the year. His inconsistency has managed to kill quite a few good drives, so Oregon will look for him to step up in a big game.

Defensively, Oregon can not let Utah establish momentum early. Once the run heavy Utah offense gets rolling, its nearly impossible to stop. That means shutting down Tavion Thomas and making Cam Rising beat the Ducks through the air. Oregon has to do something to disrupt the rhythm of the Utah offense, or they could be staring at another crooked number at the end of this one.

Prediction

Oregon should be out for redemption, especially considering the nature of the first game. However, we know Utah can shut down Oregon, but it is not clear whether Oregon can return the factor or not. Expect a much closer game this time around, and in the big moment, I will take the better team on paper, regardless of the first game. I’ll take Oregon to win the PAC 12 championship, 34-27.

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