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Oregon Offensive Keys to the Game vs. Utah in Pac-12 Championship Game

The Ducks are searching for their third straight Pac-12 Championship, but with the Utes standing in their way, they must stick to what got them this far.

Call it deja vu, but the Oregon Ducks are back in the Pac-12 Championship Game, facing the Utah Utes for the second time in three weeks. The two teams go head-to-head with the conference title on the line for the second time in three seasons.

After scoring a mere seven points against Utah in Salt Lake City two weeks ago, the Ducks bounced back nicely with a balanced offensive attack against Oregon State to punch their ticket to another conference title game.

Here are my three keys for the Ducks' offense to avoid a repeat performance from their tumultuous trip to Utah.

1. Establish the Run Early

One big reason why the Ducks didn't play well against Utah on Nov. 20 was because they got away from what they've been doing best all season — running the football. That has been their identity, whether it be early in the year with CJ Verdell or after the Stanford loss with a mix of Travis Dye and true freshman Byron Cardwell.

Anthony Brown was looking to throw the football down the field much more often early in the game against Utah, but the Utes were prepared for that scheme. Oregon's run game is what keeps opposing defenses honest and on their toes. Establishing the run gives Brown more options within the offense, whether it be quarterback keepers, play actions, or RPOs.

In that game two weeks ago, it wasn't as if Oregon tried running the ball early and found little to no success. There were just very few run plays to be spoken of, especially in the first half when the game was still realistically within reach. For the Ducks to win this game, they have to stay true to who they have been all year. They have to give Utah their best because they know the Utes will give them the same, and to do that is to attack them with Dye, Cardwell and Brown on the ground.

2. Feed Devon Williams and Kris Hutson

Now I know I'm going away from what I just said about winning with doing what Oregon does best by running the football. But when the Ducks have found success in the passing game the past few weeks, it's been when the ball is in the hands of Devon Williams and Kris Hutson.

Williams had the best game that any receiver has had for the team this season, racking up 110 yards and a touchdown against Oregon State this past weekend. He's growing into an elite wideout for the Ducks with each passing week and his route-running, long strides and athleticism make him deserving of 10 or more targets every week.

Meanwhile, Hutson has sprouted in the last two weeks after Johnny Johnson III and Jaylon Redd were lost for the season due to injuries and Mycah Pittman left the program. Hutson has recorded 11 catches for 178 yards total and a touchdown in his last two games.

Hutson made some sloppy mistakes early in the year, including the taunting call against Arizona that wiped out a big play, and the first-half fumble against California that turned the crowd's "oohs" and "aahs" into groans of displeasure. But he's growing into a well-rounded wide receiver that can handle being one of the top targets on a team contending for a conference title.


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3. Empty the Playbook

You know how Oregon has unpacked something new on offense in its past two Pac-12 title games? For example, the 2020 game against USC saw the debut of Anthony Brown, and the 2019 game against Utah saw Justin Herbert running after more than three months of fans asking for it.

I have a feeling unleashing Seven McGee will be next. McGee has been running with the slot receivers and has flashed his potential as a pass catcher. But he can also produce as a running back and as a punt returner. Oregon has yet to have a return touchdown, so look out for McGee to get his chance.

If this ends up being Joe Moorhead's last game as the offensive coordinator at Oregon, unload the whole. Damn. Playbook. There is undoubtedly a lot of creative plays still left that can get the Ducks' talented weapons the ball and capitalize on their full potential.

What better way to throw off a team that just KO'd you 13 days prior than by opening up a playbook that will essentially be burned in a matter of weeks if Moorhead is on his way out?

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