Oregon fans probably don’t want to read this article. Oregon State fans are probably still drinking their favorite Block 15 beer. Nevertheless, there’s still a Pac-12 Championship game to be played, and it could prove epic. Except for the Ducks before last Saturday, the two most consistent teams made the title matchup. It could also prove a contrast of styles with USC’s flash, prestige, and soon-to-be Heisman winner. Sparring against Utah’s grit, modern success, and the conference’s best head coach. Here are three keys to watch in the Pac-12 Championship.
Caleb Williams will likely be announced as the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner on December 10th.
Williams is a complete quarterback who does everything he should and makes highlights out of everything he shouldn’t.
He enters the championship matchup with 3,712 throwing yards, 34 touchdowns, and only three interceptions. He’s also added 351 and ten on the ground.
His two most memorable moments this season were a game-winning fourth-quarter drive against Oregon State, which involved a minor “Bush Push,” and everything he did in the Crosstown Rivalry. However, several other plays could be considered.
Chip Kelly, head coach of rival UCLA, had this to say about Williams, “ We played against as good as a quarterback as I have faced in my college career.” Kelly also added, “ That is a heck of a quarterback.”
Caleb Williams is Caleb Williams.
For Utah, they may have an equally competent college quarterback, but he comes with less notoriety.
Cameron Rising, Cam for a short, already has a Pac-12 Championship on his fraternity paddle.
Rising’s smart, a winner, and, most importantly, an all-around dawg. He’ll do whatever it takes to win, including rushing for the clinching two-point conversion in the Utes’ week seven win over the Trojans.
There’s not a lot of pressure on him in this contest, which makes him dangerous.
He enters the championship matchup with 2,629 throwing yards, 22 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He’s also added 391 and six on the ground.
Head Coach Kyle Whittingham had this to say about his leader after the USC game, “Cameron Rising, competitor, warrior, you name it, he’s a champion.”
Postgame Quotes vs. #7 USC | Pac-12
Rising will be playing for one on Friday.
One component of this matchup is both teams are missing a critical piece.
Let’s start with the Trojans.
SC lost their starter at halfback in week 12 when Travis Dye left the game with a season-ending leg injury. Dye’s stats have also proven solid, but it’s the minute details that make him elite.
He understands situational football and blocking schemes, and can also catch passes out of the backfield. He’s a huge reason why SC’s offense proved fluid this season.
He ran for 884 yards, nine touchdowns, and averaged 6.1 yards per carry in ten games. He also added 202 as a receiver.
USC will always have talented football players, but few at the college level think the game like him. It’ll take a troupe brainpower to replace him.
For the Utes, it’s a story about a man named Brant.
Senior tight end Brant Kuithe hurt his knee in week four, which proved to be a season-ending leg injury.
Kuithe is the tight-end version of Travis Dye. Brant blocks, receives, and feels like Utah’s spiritual leader. Think George Kittle.
Kuithe only played four games this year. But last season, his stats read 50 catches, 611 yards, and six touchdowns.
He was a perfect fit for the Utes’ offense because he took the pressure off their other players. The Utes don’t have a true deep threat like the Trojans, so they could rely on him to gain a few extra yards each play.
They’ll likely need to find a deep threat to replace him because no one can do what he did.
When USC and UCLA announced their move to the Big Ten last June, it shook up the Pac-12.
The Conference of Champions football reputation was already lower than a low blow, leaving fans wondering if the Pac-12 would dissipate entirely.
The conference’s still alive, but this game’s about more than these teams.
The Trojans are what college football is probably becoming NIL deals, big-market teams, and weirdo playmakers like Williams.
Utah’s more traditional.
They build from within, have a raucous small-town atmosphere, and represent a distinctly unique market.
This matchup feels right, the traditional power left for the new baddy in town, but the new power is here to re-stake its claim again.
Salt Lake City is very different from L.A. The Big Ten is very different from the Pac-12.
This may be one of the last times a matchup like this takes place on a national stage. It may also be the most important football game in the history of the Pac-12.
Whoever wins, the college football landscape is changing, and at least on Friday, the Conference of Champions has something to call its own.