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Weather Will Play A Big Role In Determining The Pac-12 Champion

Utah Utes running back Zack Moss (2) is wrapped up at the line of scrimmage by Arizona State Sun Devils defensive linemen Roe Wilkins (95) and Jermayne Lole (90) during the second half of an NCAA football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019.

SANTA CLARA, California – Mother nature will have it’s say on the Pac-12 Championship game. Whether you like it or not, it is inevitable. Rain and winds reaching up to 20 mph will barrage Levi’s Stadium come 5 p.m. Friday afternoon.

With such severe weather expected, the big question that needs answering is how will it impact the game? Who does it advantage?

The short answer is Utah. But let’s get into the nuts and bolts as to why-

Tyler Huntley’s Approach

I am sitting in my hotel room in Santa Clara, California while my roommate Scott Mitchell watches television in the bed next to me. Mitchell, the former Utah/NFL quarterback whose career spanned 16 years, has a lot of experience when it comes to playing in bad weather.

“There is a tendency to overgrip the football, which ultimately makes passing very erratic,” Mitchell tells me. “It really puts a premium on ball security. There is always a premium on ball security, but that would have really ramped up this week at practice.”

Without trying to take the attention away from Mitchell, I remember back when we were preparing for Oregon in 2015 and expecting bad weather. Every day throughout the week building up to the game, the equipment staff, who also act as ball boys/girls during practice, would dump the football in a bucket of water before handing the ball to the center/snapper. I assure you that Kyle Whittingham did the same thing this week.

Throwing the football in bad weather almost becomes impossible.

I asked Mitchell what was worse: torrential rain of 20 mph winds?

“Both are a disaster. When I saw the weather forecast for the first time, I could not believe it,” Mitchell said.

“A part of the game is taken away without you being able to have any control, it does not seem fair. People will say, “well yeah, but both teams have to deal with it,” but that is not true. It impacts both teams differently.”

The Run Game

Fortunately for Utah, they have played and experienced bad weather on a number of occasions this year. Arizona State in particular. Utah prevailed 21-3, ultimately suffocating anything ASU threw at them.

Zack Moss is the premiere back in the Championship game. The three pronged running attack that Oregon has does not compare to the efficiency and skillset that Moss possesses.

Moss has 200 carries for 1,246 yards, 15 touchdowns while averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

Oregon’s running back’s do not compare.

CJ Verdell has 162 carries for 963 yards, 5 touchdowns while averaging 5.9 yards per carry.

Travis Dye has 102 carries for 642 yards, 0 touchdowns and 6.3 yards per carry.

And finally, Cyrus Habibi-Likio has 76 carries for 310 yards, 10 touchdowns while averaging 4.1 yards per carry.

Nobody on Oregon’s roster compares to the production of Moss.

Advantage: Utah

Battle Of The Trenches

It is a cliche of me to tell you that the Pac-12 Championship game will be won and lost in the trenches. However, this week, the team that can generate the most push on the line will win.

Oregon’s offensive line is often regarded as the best in the country, headlined by their left tackle Penei Sewell, who, ironically hails from the state of Utah. Sewell is a force who will play for a very long time on Sunday’s.

Through 12 games, Sewell has only allowed just two sacks/QB hits.

This week may be different, however.

As great and talented as Oregon’s offensive front is, Utah’s defensive front is just as impressive.

Sewell will be going toe-to-toe with Bradlee Anae, who ranks seventh in the nation with 12.5 sacks in 2019 as well as a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, given annually to the nations best defensive end.

The matchup is mouthwatering and will have viewers from across the country (including the CFB Playoff Committee) glued to their television set.

Game Information

The Pac 12 Championship game will kick off at 6 p.m. from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

ABC holds the television rights.

Utah is currently a 6.5 point favorite.