Oregon Ducks vs. Utah Utes: Complete Game Preview
The Oregon Ducks are coming off their first loss of the season, while the Utah Utes are fighting for the post-season lives. The two programs haven't met since 2009, when the Ducks beat the Utes 31-24.
Oregon has a bruised psyche after the loss to Stanford, and Utah has a history of pulling off big upsets. The Utes are much tougher at home but are desperate for a big win, and the Ducks are vulnerable after being knocked out of the national title hunt.
The outcome of this game will determine the rest of the season for both programs and possibly beyond.
Here is everything you need to know about the matchup.
When: 4 p.m. ET
Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.
TV: Fox Sports1
Spread: According to vegasinsider.com, the Ducks are a 25-point favorite against the Utes.
Oregon Ducks Keys to Victory
The Ducks need to move on from last week's loss, and there is no better way to do that than by making big plays early in the game. Playing at home should help, as the Autzen Stadium crowd will be ready to support its team if they come out ready to play. If they come out with a clear hangover from the Stanford game, the crowd could grow restless.
If the Ducks play their game, there is no chance for the Utes to hang around in this one. Utah is a scrappy team, with the potential to pull off a shocker, but it would take a monumental effort to do so. As long as the Ducks stick to their assignments and play within themselves, they will remained tied with Stanford at the top of the Pac-12 North.
Utah Utes Keys to Victory
Attack early and make big plays to put the Ducks on their heels.
Going into a hostile environment against a team of Oregon's caliber is a dangerous proposition for a team trying to make it to the postseason. The Ducks had their wings clipped by the Cardinal last week, which will likely have them running onto the Autzen Stadium turf with their hair on fire. The Utes will need to keep the Ducks from getting off to a fast start if they hope to stay in the game beyond halftime.
A big play on special teams or a momentum-killing turnover could shake Oregon's confidence and build Utah's at the same time. If the Utes can create big plays on offense and put points on the board early, they'll have a shot.
The Utes blew a fourth-quarter lead last week against Arizona State due in large part to a pair of late interceptions by Travis Wilson. On the road against an aggressive Oregon defense is not the place for Utah to turn the ball over. If Wilson isn't sharp or the Utes make too many mistakes, the game will get away from them in a hurry.
Oregon Ducks Players to Watch
Mariota was the clear leader in the Heisman race before an average performance in the loss to Stanford likely ended his chances.
The important thing for Mariota and the Ducks is that they bounce back from the loss and end the season the way they are capable of ending it. To do so, the Ducks will need Mariota on top of his game.
In order to be at his best, Mariota's banged-up knee will need to be healthy going forward. His mobility was severely limited against Stanford, and it changed everything that Oregon does.
Keep an eye on him early in the game. If he is able to get out of the pocket and get downfield when needed, the Ducks should be just fine. If he is limited, Oregon's offense will follow suit.
Thomas has mostly been a non-factor in two games since returning from an ankle injury. He was limited by the physical defenses of UCLA and Stanford, the latter of which forced a Thomas fumble inside the 5-yard line.
The Ducks need Thomas need to regain his form as the most dangerous offensive weapon in the country. Physically, he looks ready to return to form, but he needs to prove it on the field.
The senior safeties are the leaders of the defense and need to rally the troops, which was demoralized by Stanford's physical offense.
With quarterback Travis Wilson, who has been susceptible to costly turnovers, leading the way, Utah will throw the ball more than Stanford did against the Ducks.
Patterson and Jackson must defend the deep third of the field because a couple of deep balls over the top could lead to the big plays that the Utes need to stay in the game.
Their leadership will be as important as their play on the field because they are the glue that holds the Ducks' wounded defense together.
Utah Utes Players to Watch
At times, Wilson has been good during his first season and a half at Utah, but he has been inconsistent and turnover prone, too. He threw two costly interceptions in the fourth quarter against Arizona State last week, which allowed the Sun Devils to rally for a 20-19 win in Salt Lake City.
Wilson has the physical tools and enough weapons to keep the Utes in the game if the Ducks come out flat, but he will need to limit his mistakes against an Oregon defense looking to recover from the Stanford game.
If he turns the ball over like he has in recent weeks, the Ducks will take advantage and run away with the game in a hurry.
Anderson is Utah's biggest threat in the passing game, leading the Utes with 37 receptions, 742 yards and six touchdowns. The 6'1", 187-pound Anderson has recorded a touchdown catch in six of Utah's nine games. He has also contributed 70 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
According to nfldraftscout.com, Reilly is considered the No. 8 defensive end prospect in the upcoming draft. The 6'5", 255-pound Reilly is on fire with 5.5 sacks in the last three games.
He is tied with Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy for the Pac-12 lead with 1.56 tackles-for-loss per game and is tied for 13th in the nation with 7.5 sacks. On the season, the versatile defender's sack total leads the Utes, as do his 78 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and three fumble recoveries.
What They Are Saying
We're standing toe-to-toe with the best the conference has to offer and I said that in the press conference on Saturday night, but we've got to find a way to get more wins. We're more competitive, but it's not about being competitive. It's about getting W's, and so, that’s the next hurdle we got to get over — is finding a way to win these games.
We're all frustrated. But the one thing that we have going for us is that we're a family and I think that we're the closest family unit in the nation as a team. So that's a good thing for us that we have going. I think that if we all stick together and just keep our heads up, we'll overcome the frustration and hopefully end the season right — because we really want to get our seniors to a bowl game, something that didn't happen last year and that was really a bad thing at the end of the season.
There's certainly a lot of emotions to go into it, and there's so much left to play for, in every regard. Whether just as a teammate or the external stuff - and our guys, the leaders on this team have already done a great job of rallying the troops for lack of a better phrase. Our guys will practice hard tomorrow. They will bounce back and we will turn the page. we will have normal set of meetings. We have to keep in mind this is the team that beat Stanford, from that standpoint its not hard to refocus, but certainly there will be a few guys who will be lagging, but we control - we control - our enthusiasm and we will get that right.
Utah beat Stanford, lost by a touchdown to UCLA, took Oregon State to overtime and lost by just one to No. 22 Arizona State. The Utes handed the Cardinal its lone defeat and lost three games by a combined 11 points to teams with a combined record of 19-6. But each of those games was at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The 4-5 Utes are trying to get to six wins in hopes of earning a bowl berth, but they are a much better team at home than they are on the road. Traveling to Autzen Stadium to face the Ducks will cause the Utes to have to wait for their fifth win of the season.
Facing an angry Oregon team that's ready to show that the Stanford loss won't ruin its season is a tough task. Doing it on its home field is even tougher.
The Utes will hang around for most of the first quarter before Oregon finally recovers its offensive rhythm and its defensive swagger. It will still be within reach at halftime, but a big third quarter by the Ducks will push it out of reach.
The Ducks will move to 9-1, while pushing the Utes to 4-6.
Oregon 42 - Utah 17