No. 10 Oregon (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12) travels to Las Vegas to face the No. 17 Utah Utes (9-3. 8-1 Pac-12) in the Pac-12 championship. As one would expect, a lot is on the line for both teams.
For the Ducks, it's a chance to lock up their third straight Pac-12 title, and for the Utes, the game presents the unique opportunity of going to the program's first Rose Bowl since joining the conference in 2011.
Here are five questions on my mind heading into this matchup.
1. How does Oregon look at the line of scrimmage?
The last time these teams met, Oregon got bullied. There's no other way to put it. The defense looked like it had turned a corner defending the run, then got thrown around to the tune of 208 rushing yards and struggled to set the edge.
We'll know very quickly if the Ducks came to play in this one. They weren't effective running the ball against the Utes two weeks ago (63 rushing yards), and they'll absolutely need to on Friday.
2. How effective will the passing attack be?
If I'm Utah, I'm not changing the game plan from two weeks ago. I want to make Anthony Brown beat me through the air.
The Utes forced the Ducks to pass the ball with their scheme, and also by putting up a lot of points in a hurry, which made explosive plays a necessity. Oregon's offense has been one-dimensional all year, they've just been able to run the ball and get away with it against most of their opponents.
Brown had an awesome day against Oregon State, and oddly enough got the deep ball going a bit in Salt Lake, which could be some reason for optimism. The offensive line gave up three sacks in the last matchup and will need to keep Brown up right and give him time to operate.
3. Will the Ducks force a turnover this time around?
Neither team turned the ball over in the last matchup, which could mean that we're due to see one or maybe multiple this time.
The Ducks were struggling to gain any shred of momentum and boy we've seen how much momentum generating turnovers can create. This game should be closer than two weeks ago and a turnover could prove to be the difference.
Or what about a special teams touchdown for the Ducks? It's been a quiet year on special teams save a few returns here and there and we know how talented the players returning punts and kickoffs are. Time to step up.
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4. Do we see another player break out on the big stage?
Our Dylan Reubenking talked about this in his keys to the pieces, and I'm totally on board. His pick was for running back Seven McGee, and he's been a name on everyone's mind all season. He's got big play written all over him.
We saw KT make his mark in each of the last two seasons after breaking out in the 2019 game against Utah.
There's TONS of talent on this roster and it'd be hard to find a better time than now to have someone break out. We've seen a lot from Kris Hutson and Devon Williams, but especially with Utah poised to zero in on Thibodeaux, I think it's more needed on defense.
It was Jamal Hill last year, maybe this year it's Jayson Jones, Dontae Manning or Jackson LaDuke.
5. Will Oregon be able to get pressure on Cam Rising?
The Ducks got one sack last time against Utah, but for the most part Rising had time to operate. We know the Utes will try to get Tavion Thomas going early, and if they have success in that, you need to get some hits on Rising and make him uncomfortable.
Look for Brandon Dorlus to have an impact as the clear No. 2 pass rusher and to see Noah Sewell come on some blitzes. However, that opens space in the middle of the field, where the Utes exploited Oregon last time.
It further emphasizes the first question. Gotta win the line of scrimmage if you want a shot in this game.
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