This Saturday will be the game that defines Oregon’s season. As it currently stands, the Ducks looked poised for a College Football Playoff berth. But we’ve been here before. Just think back to 2019 when Arizona State upset the Justin Herbert-led squad. But UO feels different this year; they feel elite. No matter what happens this weekend, this is an opportunity for the Pac-12 to showcase two of the best teams the West offers. Here are three reasons why Oregon will beat Utah this Saturday.
While Noah Sewell, Anthony Brown, and Kayvon Thibodeaux probably receive more notoriety, Travis Dye is the heart of this roster.
Ever since CJ Verdell’s injury, Dye has proven the one constant for UO’s offense. In the five contests since Verdell’s injury, Travis has 92 carries, 526 yards, and nine touchdowns on the ground. Through the air, he’s added 24 receptions, 222 yards, and two touchdowns.
He may not be the most talented player on their roster, but he is their most efficient.
And beyond the numbers, he adds an element to this team that has been missing in past seasons.
The word that comes to mind is grit. He’s a true Mario Cristobal kind of guy. Dye’s not pretty, flashy, or cocky, but he’s tough as Mick Foley.
And this is the exact trait needed to beat a Kyle Whittingham Utes team.
All the big plays, flash, and the third quarter rendition of “Shout” may sell tickets, but toughness breeds championships.
This is a mantra that Utah football has lived by, and it’s probably a reason why they’re a perennial contender in the South, even with limited recruiting capacity.
However, these aren’t the same Ducks; in the last three outings, they’ve rushed for 256, 329, and 306 yards in each respective matchup.
If they can continue this trend, they should exit Salt Lake City with a dub.
Kayvon Thibodeaux Vs. Devin Lloyd
These are the two biggest stars in this contest, and both are projected as First-Round NFL Draft Picks in 2022.
The difference is, Thibodeaux is projected as the No. 1 selection overall, while Lloyd rings in at No. 19.
By now, every UO fan knows who Kayvon is, so let’s turn our attention to Lloyd.
The Junior linebacker is a flat-out stud who can impact the game at every level.
His season stats read 84 tackles, 20 TFL’s, seven sacks, three interceptions, and six pass deflections.
Considering the lengthy list, it may be easy to overlook his 20 TFL’s.
And this isn’t a case where he’s only getting stats because his teammates suck. As usual, the Utes feature several talented players.
For Kayvon, forget the stats. This contest should prove an opportunity for him to showcase himself in the national spotlight. Remember, he didn’t play in the Ohio State matchup.
In this outing, he needs to dominate from start to finish. He needs to look the part of a future No.1 pick.
When it comes to the battle of him vs. Lloyd, Thibodeaux’s athleticism gives him the advantage.
They didn’t name him “Diesel” as a baby for nothing.
If it were up to Cristobal, Eugene’s Nickname would be ToughTown USA. And yes, we couldn’t have been any cornier.
Ever since his arrival on campus, he’s changed the face of the program. Oregon is no longer a team that relies on speed, spread offense, and up-tempo play. They now impose their will with a physical offensive line and brutal rushing attack.
This is a formula that should prove particularly successful in postseason play.
But it’s more than that; it’s his vibe.
He feels like a man who knows exactly who he is and what he stands for. He doesn’t feel phony.
And this may be due to his family’s lineage.
His father, Luis Cristobal, “worked for the Cuban national police before becoming an exile in the early 1960s.”
Mario Campos, his grandfather, “was on the roof of his house at age 82 hacking branches off a large tree with a machete.”
And coach himself is trained in judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, and Muay Thai.
Mario Cristobal’s discipline, toughness, and mentality maybe what he’s known for. But his family values are what makes him the man he is.
A man who may bring the Ducks their first National Championship.