Will The Oregon Ducks Win The PAC-12 Championship By Beating Utah?

The Pac-12 Championship Game is set for Friday, December 3 at 6 PM MST at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The 11th Ranked Oregon Ducks will face the 19th ranked Utah Utes in a rematch that occurred just two weeks prior when the Utes routed the Ducks, 38-7.  Oregon advanced to the game after defeating Oregon State 38-29 to win the Pac-12 North title. The 9-3 Utes are a 3-point favorite over the 10-2 Ducks with an over/under of 60.5.

Oregon will be making their third consecutive appearance in the Pac-12 Championship Game. This season they averaged 33.2 points per game and allowed 24.4 points per game. Their biggest win was in week two over Ohio State with a late loss against Stanford and the blowout to the Utes.

Leading the way for the Ducks is quarterback Anthony Brown, who has thrown for 2261 yards and 13 touchdowns while adding 559 yards and eight scores on the ground. Wide receivers Devon Williams and Johnny Johnson III have combined for 53 catches, while running back Travis Dye has proven to be a threat both on the ground and in the passing game, hauling in team-high 33 passes. Dye also leads a highly effective running attack that is averaging just under 200 yards per game. Dye has 937 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging a tick under six yards per attempt.  The versatility at running back includes CJ Verdell and Byron Cardwell, who have added nearly 1000 yards combined with nine touchdowns.

Defensively, linebacker Noah Sewell has a team-high four of the team’s 22 sacks.  Verone McKinley III is second on the team in tackles and has five of the team’s 14 interceptions.  Placekicker Camden Lewis has been solid, hitting 46-of-47 extra point attempts and 10-of-12 field goals, including 4-of-5 from beyond 40 yards.

The Utes started the season at 1-2 following back-to-back losses to Brigham Young and San Diego State. Utah is currently on a five-game winning streak and features a high-powered offense that is averaging 35.9 points per game. Defensively, they have been rock-solid as well, allowing only 21.5 per game.

Quarterback Cameron Rising has an excellent 17-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio and has completed 63 percent of his passes for 2109 yards. He has also been efficient on the ground, gaining 358 yards with five touchdowns.  Utah utilizes their tight ends brilliantly. The duo of Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid have a combined 926 yards and 12 touchdowns.  The Utes top receiver has been Britain Covey, who has 44 catches.  The biggest threat that Utes possess is on the ground, where they are averaging 216 yards per game. Tavion Thomas has created headaches for opposing defenses, having rushed for 978 yards and 18 touchdowns. TJ Pledger is a big-play maker, r averaging 7.1 yards on 92 carries, including a long of 96 yards. 

Defensively, the Utes create lots of pressure on the quarterback led by Mika Tafua and Devin Lloyd, who have 16.5 of the team’s 37 sacks. Lloyd also leads the team in tackles (100), interceptions (3) and tied with Clark Phillips with defensive touchdowns, each with one.  The kicking game has been inconsistent at best. The duo of Jadon Redding and Jordan Noyes have hit just 10-of-16 field goal attempts and only 5-of-11 from 30 yards and beyond.

The Utes will be playing in the Pac-12 Championship Game for the third time in four years, losing their previous two. They know the game is as much mental as it is physical at this point.   This is where keeping the mental mistakes at a minimum could determine the outcome of this game.  The Ducks have a huge advantage in turnover margin, +9 to 0.

This time around, the game should be much more competitive. After all, the Ducks have plenty of tape to watch from their first meeting this season. Fortunately, much of their miscues can be corrected.  A normally solid special teams unit missed a field goal and had another blocked. In addition, the coverage units were bad, allowing a long punt return touchdown. 

The third-down defense was also horrific, allowing the Utes to convert on nearly 80 percent of its 14 chances.  The battles along the line must be won for the Ducks to change their fortunes. Last meeting, the Utes gained over 200 yards on the ground, while the Ducks usually strong rushing attack was stopped dead in its tracks.  Oregon must also get substantially more pressure no Cameron Rising, who had seemingly all day to throw in their first meeting.

The last time the two teams have met in the Pac-12 Championship game was in 2019 where the Ducks took down the Utes 37-15 in Santa Clara, California.  

This will be the first time that Allegiant Stadium has hosted the Pac-12 Championship Game.

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