Unknown Intrigue Surrounds No. 10 Utah’s Impending Battle With No. 12 Oregon
EUGENE, OR- It’s the biggest weekend of the year for the Pac-12 with No. 7 USC travels up the road to take on No. 16 UCLA and No. 10 Utah is in Eugene to take on No. 12 Oregon. While the battle of the SoCals is important, it’s Utah’s impending matchup with Oregon that holds a lot of unknowns and intrigue.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) November 18, 2022
Last season the Utes went “Roadrunner” twice on the Ducks, once at Rice-Eccles Stadium and then again at the Pac-12 Championship. There has been a lot of talk that “Wile E. Coyote” (Oregon) might want to exact some revenge and it was looking like the Ducks were poised to perhaps pull it off, until a big, ol’ anvil (Washington) got in the way.
Set aside the fact that Oregon lost at home to the Huskies last weekend. While disappointing for the Ducks, the concern goes much deeper than just another loss. Rumors have been floating around ever since, that star quarterback Bo Nix is hurt and either won’t play or will be very limited in Saturday’s contest. Add in some questions about the health of their stout offensive line as well and things just got much more interesting.
Big game today between No. 10 @Utah_Football and No. 12 Oregon. Here are three things to keep an eye on as the game kicks off at 7:30 pm PT/8:30 pm MT on @espn.#GoUtes #UteProud #Uboyz #UtahFootballhttps://t.co/ZCgjU5uEwP
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) November 19, 2022
In fairness, Utah has not been the healthiest either, but they have shown a lot of creativity and grittiness to continue putting up impressive offensive production without some of their key players always being available. It also has sounded positive for the Utes that a lot of guys will be back for this game which is a huge swing in favor of Utah if in fact Oregon is as unhealthy as everyone thinks.
Getting To Know The Oregon Ducks
First year head coach Dan Lanning appears to have the Ducks on the right track after their disappointing skid to the finish line last season under Mario Cristobal. There was some concern early on that the rebuild project for the Ducks would take a while after a very disappointing outing against Georgia to start 2022, but they have been pretty impressive since.
Lanning has gotten a team that wasn’t really on anyone’s radar into the College Football Playoff conversation until last week’s meeting with Washington. Still, Oregon has a lot to play for- a potential Pac-12 Championship and Rose Bowl berth just like the other three contenders (Utah, USC, and UCLA) and it would be unwise to think the Ducks aren’t motivated.
As mentioned in the opening, Lanning has relied on the services of Bo Nix to move the chains for Oregon’s offense, and he’s been really good. In 2022 Nix has 219 completed passes for 2,775 yards, 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He currently has a QBR of 89 that puts him third in the entire country at the quarterback position. Nix has also been good on his feet for the Ducks rushing 78 times for 516 yards, and 14 touchdowns while averaging 6.6 yards per carry.
— Oregon Football (@oregonfootball) November 16, 2022
If Nix is limited or truly can’t go like the rumors have suggested, the next man up is most likely Ty Thompson. Thompson has not seen a ton of action and the early reviews have not been terribly positive on the five-star freshman, but it’s important to remember, five-star or not, he’s a freshman and still developing. In Thompson’s limited action, he’s completed 11 passes off of 21 attempts for 72 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Thompson has also attempted to use his feet- five rushes for negative six yards.
Whether it’s Nix or Thompson leading the charge, it seems almost certain the Ducks will try to rely on their rush game which is second in the conference. Bucky Irving and Noah Whittington are Oregon’s one-two punch in the offensive backfield. Irving currently has rushed 119 times for 831 yards and two touchdowns while averaging seven yards per carry. Whittington has rushed 102 times for 620 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 6.1 yards per play.
When it comes to pass catching for Oregon, Troy Franklin is their main culprit. Franklin has been good for 44 receptions for 775 yards and six touchdowns. Irving is also no slouch with his hands having caught 22 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns. If it’s a tight end you seek for the Oregon pass-catching game, look no further than Terrance Ferguson with 24 receptions for 238 yards and five touchdowns.
Defense is not the Duck’s strong suit in 2022 which makes the questions surrounding the health of their offense more concerning. Outside of being second in the Pac-12 in rush defense, the rest of their stats are average to below average. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have some ballers either.
Linebacker Jeffrey Bassa is responsible for 43 tackles, one sack and one interception for the Ducks. Defensive back Bennett Williams is very productive for Oregon posting 45 tackles, one sack, six passes defended and two forced fumbles. Fellow defensive back Christian Gonzalez can also be a terror posting 45 tackles, seven passes defended and three interceptions. Finally, a name all Ute fans should be familiar with, linebacker Noah Sewell has put up 42 tackles, one sack, three passes defended and a fumble recovery.
Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports
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