Pros & Cons For Utah Playing Oregon In ‘Crossover’ Game

Sep 30, 2020, 10:56 AM
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Oregon Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert (10) scrambles out with the ball while being chased by Utah Utes defensive end Bradlee Anae (6) during the Pac-12 Championship game between the Oregon Ducks and the Utah Utes on December 6, 2019, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Reports have been floating around that the Pac-12 is going to schedule Utah and Oregon in their crossover game.

We’ll know by the end of the week who will come to Salt Lake City from the north division. What we do know is that Utah will host two south division foes and will travel to three teams in their division. Utah will play host to Arizona and USC while traveling to UCLA, Arizona State and Colorado. That leaves Utah with one less home game than road games which is why the Utes will host the crossover game.

College consultant Dave Bartoo told John Canzano on his radio show in Portland that the Pac-12 should schedule Oregon’s crossover game with either Utah or Arizona State. It would give them a chance for a quality win.


Playing At Home

It’s always a positive to play really good teams at home. Or to play teams that are not that good at home. My point is that it’s always good to be at home. With or without fans, it’s a benefit for the Utes to have this game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Not having to travel especially in a pandemic will be a huge plus for the Utes.

League Looks At Utah As ‘Quality Team’

The fact that Bartoo thinks highly of Utah is a plus for the program. Those who have followed the team knows that the respect is there for Kyle Whittingham’s program. The question has always been the national perception which is a mixed bag. The question that is being thrown out there is why not USC? The Trojans are predicted to win the south division. Maybe the conference wants to put a good opponent on the resume for the Ducks, who have CFP aspirations but also think USC will be meeting Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game.

This could be a pro or a con to what Bartoo thinks. I guess it’s how you look at it.

Great Test For Young Players

It’s known throughout the state and region that Utah lost a lot of talented players to graduation and the NFL. Replacing 9 starters on one side of the ball is not an easy task. On top of that, Utah has to replace their quarterback, running back and left tackle on offense. The icing on the cake is only having three practices in the spring with a roster full of freshmen and sophomores in a time where spring ball is critical for development of young talent. Utah will be tested for sure, it’s just a matter of will they rise to the occasion?

It wouldn’t be ideal to play this game if it happened at the beginning of the season. Put this matchup at the end of the schedule.

Many Key Oregon Players Opted Out Of Season

Three key players have opted out of the 2020 season and will not return to Oregon after declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft. All three players are huge losses to the Ducks. The first player to opt out was former Desert Hills High School star and offensive tackle Penei Sewell, who is likely going to be a top five pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Sewell announced his decision on September 7.

Oregon’s offensive line was dominant last season and it showed in the Pac-12 Championship game as they held their own against one of the top defensive line units in the country at Utah. With Sewell gone this season, a very young offensive line just became more experienced but luckily for Ducks fans, Mario Cristobal is a offensive line master.

Defensive back Thomas Graham announced his decision to opt out on September 10 after racking up 182 tackles, 40 pass breakups and 8 interceptions in three seasons in Eugene. Graham was going to be a huge asset for Oregon as one of their strengths was their defensive secondary.

On top of losing Graham, the Ducks took another massive hit in their defensive secondary when defensive back Jevon Holland opted out on September 26. Holland is one of the best DB’s on the west coast.


History Not On Utah’s Side

Since the Utes joined the Pac-12 in 2011, they have beat the Ducks just twice. First time was in 2015 when they went to Autzen and dominated Oregon, 62-20. The last win over the Ducks was in 2018 when they won by 7 points at home. Utah is 1-2 at home against Oregon.

Oregon Is Very Good

Despite losing star quarterback Justin Herbert, their entire offensive line and four starters on defense, the Ducks are in good hands with the top recruiting class in the conference in 2020 and looking to have one of the best in the country in 2021. A player that Ute fans wouldn’t be thrilled to see this season if the game happens is running back C.J. Verdell, who went off for 208 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns in the Pac-12 Championship and was named MVP of the game.

Impacts Utah’s Conference Record

The crossover game will impact the conference record towards the chance of playing for the Pac-12 title. Just like every season. Normally it wouldn’t matter with a 9-game conference schedule anyway. Fans are not happy that this would count if Utah was to get Oregon but another south team faces a “weaker” north division team. They believe it’s not fair.

I am happy to be talking about football so that is one of the things that doesn’t come to mind. For the fans sake, this is a con.

No Fans In Stands

Only BYU has experienced this so far in the state of Utah. Not having fans in attendance. We have never had to witness this before. Normally the MUSS and “third down jump” gets the team fired up inside an electric Rice-Eccles Stadium. Piped in crowd noise or not, this is going to be strange. Even if protocols change in November or December that allows 25 percent capacity, it won’t make a difference.

Obviously, a partially filled RES is nowhere near the home field advantage a jampacked, sold out stadium.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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