Considered a major contender in the Pac-12 and for the playoff, Oregon was exposed on Saturday in a stunning blowout loss to Utah. Meanwhile, the road win showed that the Utes deserve more national attention.
Well, that was unexpected. Two weeks after recording the “best loss” in college football to Michigan State, No. 13 Oregon got destroyed in its own stadium. No. 18 Utah ran through, and ran over, a pathetic Ducks defense on its way to a 62–20 win, blowing out Mark Helfrich’s team in spectacular fashion. With two losses, Oregon can kiss its playoff hopes goodbye. And Utah, now sitting at 4–0, can enjoy its upcoming bye week.
Three quick thoughts from the game:
1. This says a lot more about Oregon than it does about Utah
Talk about a fall from grace. In early January, the Ducks played for the national championship. Nine months later, they gave up the most points in Autzen Stadium history. Granted, they are missing the best player in program history in Marcus Mariota. But there were supposed to be plenty of playmakers left in Eugene, from running back Royce Freeman (14 carries for 77 yards Saturday night) to receiver Bralon Addison (three catches for 31 yards) to receiver Byron Marshall (carted off the field with an injury).
Not having a reliable quarterback though—Vernon Adams was pulled after seven pass attempts, and backup Jeff Lockie finished 10 of 20 for 139 yards, one touchdown and two picks—renders all that moot. And even a good offense cannot cover up for an atrocious secondary and an overall bad defense that gave up 7.2 yards per play.
2. But HOLY MOLY Utah
After a frustrating couple seasons in the Pac-12, Utah finally broke through last year with a handful of big wins (in the 2014 Battle for L.A., the Utes won it all). It looked like the Utes were going to get some respect ... then, they got picked to finish fifth in the loaded Pac-12 South. Well, this is Utah’s biggest win since joining the conference. It might be time for everyone to re-evaluate the Utes’ standing, because this team is tough. Utah is extremely physical; it wears teams down in the trenches and it impacts every part of the game. It helps when its quarterback stays healthy: Travis Wilson completed 18 of 30 passes for 227 yards and four touchdowns and rushed six times for 100 yards, an incredible 16.7 yards-per-rush average. And don’t forget, punters are people, too—as well as first down threats.
3. What to make of the Pac-12?
No home team won a game this weekend in conference play, which was very surprising in Eugene, and somewhat surprising in Tempe. Through two weeks of league play, road teams have totaled 273 points to home teams’ 143 points. For as much hype as the Pac-12 received in the preseason, the conference of champs mostly hasn’t lived up to it. Oregon will likely fall out of the AP Top 25, Arizona State’s offense was non-existent against USC through the first half and no one knows what to make of the Trojans. And so, it’s time we start talking about Utah as a conference championship contender—and circle Nov. 21 on our calendars, when UCLA travels to Salt Lake City.