The Ducks solved their "Stanford problem" last weekend with a dominating 45-16 win over the Cardinal. This weekend, they'll look to take the next step in solving their "November problem" when they travel to Salt Lake City to face the No. 20 Utah Utes. While there's no guarantees in college football, especially in November, this looks to be Oregon's last true test of the regular season. Survive this game, and all that is left is a home game against Colorado and a trip to Corvallis for the Civil War against Oregon State. A loss to Colorado or Oregon State would be a shocking upset. A loss to Utah wouldn't actually be surprising, especially considering Oregon's recent history in November. Here's a closer look into Utah's offense.
Unlike Oregon, Utah has used a two-quarterback system this year with Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson. According to Utah's official game notes, Wilson and Thompson have been named co-starters this weekend. Personally, I've never liked the two-QB system. One reason the Ducks have been great is because they have an established leader in Marcus Mariota. The quarterback is your field general, and when you flip-flop between two, there's a lack of leadership on the field.
Wilson is Utah's main guy. This year, he's thrown for 1,084 yards and nine touchdowns. He also has yet to throw an interception this season. Wilson hasn't thrown for over 200 yards in a game since their season opener against Idaho State, which is why the Utes rank 111th in the nation in passing, averaging just 175.3 yards per game.
Kendal Thompson is Utah's mobile quarterback. This year, Thompson has more rushing attempts (51) than pass attempts (47) and is Utah's second leading rusher behind Devontae Booker. He won't be a factor in the passing game, averaging less than eight pass attempts per season. However, the Ducks will have to keep an eye on him when he takes off running. In Utah's 30-28 win over UCLA last month, Thompson ran the ball 19 times for 83 yards. Remember what a headache Cal's Luke Rubenzer caused for the Ducks? Thompson could cause similar problems if Oregon isn't careful.
Devontae Booker is the engine to Utah's offense. This season, Booker has 183 carries for 990 yards and eight touchdowns. Booker is on a hot streak, rushing for over 100 yards in each of his last five games. During that stretch, Booker is averaging 30 carries and 162 yards per game. That includes a monster performance against Oregon State in which he carried the ball 32 times for 229 yards and three touchdowns.
Booker ranks second in the Pac-12 in rushing yards per game and tied for third in rushing touchdowns. He had a rocky start to the year in non-conference play, but ever since Pac-12 play started, Booker has been an absolute machine. His 229-yard performance against the Beavers is the best in the conference so far this season. If Oregon can't stop Booker, they could be in big trouble.
Utah's passing game suffered a huge blow when they lost Dres Anderson for the season after he suffered a knee injury against USC on Oct. 25. He is still Utah's leading receiver with 22 catches for 355 yards and four touchdowns. As a result, Wilson will be looking to Kenneth Scott, who ranks second on the team in receptions (26) and receiving yards (258). Scott also has three touchdown catches on the year. Scott and Anderson account for seven of Utah's 11 touchdown catches this year. Compare that to the Ducks who have six receivers with at least four touchdown catches this year.
Who to watch for
Utah is a one-dimensional offense, which is going to be their downfall this weekend. Utah's hope of an upset rests on the shoulders of Devontae Booker. Utah's passing game, which was never much to begin with, took a huge hit when they lost Dres Anderson for the year. Here's the problem with Utah's offense when it comes to playing Oregon. You know the Ducks are going to score, and they rarely turn the ball over. Even if you match their scoring and hang with them, the Ducks are eventually just going to outgun you, much like they did against Cal. To beat the Ducks, Utah will need to hang with Oregon just long enough until they make a mistake, and that's a big question mark if the Ducks will even make a mistake. I have a feeling this game is going to match that of the 2009 Arizona OT thriller on the "Epic-o-Meter" of November college football. But if Booker can't get going, this game could be decided much earlier.