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Five Questions With a Utah Writer Ahead of Oregon vs. Utah

The Ducks need to win on Saturday if they want to keep their Pac-12 title hopes alive.
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Oregon and Utah kick off tonight at 7:35 pm PT. The two Pac-12 powers will go toe-to-toe in Eugene inside a roaring Autzen Stadium.

To get ready for this big matchup I synced up with Cole Bagley, publisher of Fan Nation's AllUtes, to get a better feel for what's in store for the Ducks come game time.

1. What’s the mood of the Utah fan base on this season? Are the Utes meeting or surpassing expectations?

Overall, the Utah fanbase is fairly pleased with the season to this point but there is still work to be done. Early on, there was some disappointment as they dropped what should've been a win in Gainesville and were later dominated by UCLA. However, the Utes have really come together as of late and the expectation is that they'll defend their Pac-12 Title at Allegiant in a few weeks. Anything less would be a disappointment.

READ MORE: Roderick Pleasant previews Oregon official visit

2. What are some of the keys for a Utah win?

If the Utes want to walk away from Eugene with a victory on Saturday, it's going to require an all-around stellar performance on both sides of the football.

First off, the Utes have to come out strong on offense. In addition to being the visitor, Utah cannot afford to have one of their slow starts against Oregon. While that may have been acceptable against inferior opponents like Stanford, a slow start would most likely put the Utes in a hole that they would not be able to dig themselves out of.

Second, the run game has got to be firing on all cylinders. While the Utes have a talented and diverse set of running backs, Oregon has done a fantastic job limiting yards on the ground all season (108.2 yards per game). If Utah can get close to their seasonal average (210 yards per game), that would put them in a great position to walk away with a victory.

Defensively, Utah has to be ready for anything. With rumors continuing to circulate in regards to Bo Nix's availability, Utah has to be prepared for whoever commands the Ducks offense. Whether it's the offensive drugganaut of Nix, or an inexperienced Ty Thompson, Utah cannot be taken off guard.

3. What are Utah’s main strengths and weaknesses?

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In regards to Utah's strengths, Cameron Rising is by far the most fierce and talented player for the Utes. He's dangerous, smart, consistent, rarely makes mistakes and is deceivingly effective with his legs. In addition to QB1, Tavion Thomas is back and looking like the best running back in the conference after posting 180 yards against Stanford. If Thomas is anywhere near his best, Oregon is in trouble.

As for their weaknesses, Utah's defense has been exposed on the ground quite a few times this season which led to their only two losses on the year. While they have shown a lot of progress the last few weeks, Oregon really should look to move the chains with their backs.

READ MORE: Oregon turning up the heat in pursuit of LSU commit Daylen Austin

4. Kyle Whittingham has built Utah into a Pac-12 power. How did he do it? 

While it has taken a lot of time and dedication to build such a strong program, I would credit Whittingham's success to his ability to recruit and develop players to their highest potential. Guys like Devin Lloyd, Julian Blackmon, Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss were all just average three-star recruits that Whittingham developed into magnificent NFL talent

5. What’s one aspect of this Utah team or program that people aren’t talking about enough?

One thing that really stands out about this Utah football team that nobody is really talking about is their resiliency and next-man up mentality this season. In addition to losing one of their star tight ends and a talented running back, Utah was without their other star tight end for a few weeks, benched their starting running back, had to start their backup quarterback on the fly when Rising went down and moved another quarterback to running back. That doesn't exactly sound like a team that should be 8-2 right now with a shot to win the Pac-12. 

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