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Know Thy Enemy: Utah Utes

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NCAA Football: UCLA at Oregon Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Ducks travel to Rice-Eccles to take on the wounded Utes. Who are the Utes and how have they played this year thus far?

2018 Record: 6-3 (4-3)

Key Numbers + Info (2018 season)

OOC Opponents: Weber State, Northern Illinois, BYU

Points per game: 30.33

Points allowed per game: 19.11

Avg. yards per rush: 4.8

Avg. yards per rush allowed: 3.1

Avg. rush yards per game: 202

Avg. rush yards per game allowed: 100

Rushing TDs: 17 for, 10 against

Avg. pass yards per game: 217.56

Avg. pass yards per game allowed: 214.67

Passing TDs: 14 for, 11 against

Collective Pass Completion Rate: 62%

Collective Pass Completion Rate Against: 54%

Leading Rusher: Zack Moss (179 carries for 1,092 yards and 11 TDs)

Leading Receiver: Britain Covey (50 receptions for 555 yards and 1 TD)

Leading Tackler: Chase Hansen (75 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions)

Leader in Sacks: Bradlee Anae (6.0)

Analysis

  • Utah is a predominantly run based team based on the yards and attempts. They have been out-rushed in only three games this year. They hold a 60 to 40 run to pass ratio. Opponents are much more balanced with 51 to 49 pass to run.
  • The Utes have outgained their opponents 3,776 to 2,832 and outscoring their opposition 273 to 172.
  • The highest point total they have scored is 42 in a win against Arizona. They have reached the 40 point plateau a total of five times. The least the Utes have scored is 7 against Washington.

Key prospects to watch

1. Zack Moss 5’10 217 Junior

- It can be argued that Moss is the best running back in the conference. He plays much heavier than his listed size and relishes contact. Instinctive as a runner and knows how to find the different angles of a hole. Rarely loses yardage. Pretty good straight line runner.

2. Bradlee Anae 6’3 254 Junior

- Utah’s best pass rusher. Fundamentally sound. Arsenal of pass rush moves is decent.

3. Chase Hansen 6’2 220 RS Senior

- Could be the most improved linebacker in the conference full of intriguing prospects at his position. Has the numbers to back it up with 75 tackles, 4 sacks, and 2 interceptions.

Keys to an Oregon win

  • Offensive balance. In two of Utah’s three losses, (I’m throwing out the Wazzu stats because their system), the opponents (Washington and Arizona State) had a near 50/50 split between the pass and run game. The Ducks offense will need to get their passing game (i.e. Justin Herbert’s mental state) in gear to help the pretty decent run game shown thus far. In Utah’s four conference wins, they dominated the balance.
  • Win third down and TOP. In Utah’s three losses, they are giving up a 45% third down conversion rate. In their wins, they have converted only 36% on third down. The Ducks must capitalize on this and get the offense in third and medium or shorter situations. Oregon is converting 44% of third downs on the season, which falls in line with Utah ‘s opponents during their losses.
  • Offensive Line. The Ducks have seemingly found their right non-Penei Sewell involved OL combo to carry them forward. True freshman Steven Jones played surprisingly well last week against UCLA at left tackle. The Utes have 21 sacks while the Ducks have allowed 12. It will be critical for the line to hold up against a traditionally stout Utah defense. The key matchup will be Jones vs. Anae. Bad news/good news: starting center Jake Hanson is out for the first half due to a “controversial” targeting call. The good news is that Calvin Throckmorton isn’t brand new to the position as he got center reps during spring camp when Hanson was out for injury. No Hanson, No bad snap yips.

Keys to an Oregon loss

  • Run defense. More specifically, tackling by the front seven. It was a clinic of what not to do last week against the Bruins. As Utah will have a new starting quarterback, they will likely rely on Zack Moss more to carry the rock. Which is bad news for the struggling front seven as he’s one of the best backs in the conference. Last week’s “effort” at tackling was an utter abomination against defensive fundamentals. Frequently the Ducks had good penetration in the backfield but they just stood there waiting for the other guy to make a tackle it seemed. Jim Leavitt and co will need to drill tackling relentlessly this week in practice.
  • Offensive creativity. Or the lack thereof if/when Marcus Arroyo reverts back to his usual old inconsistent self. The play calling was decent last week but it was a hapless opponent. What happens when a big league defense shows up ready made with NFL caliber prospects? Justin Herbert not locking onto Dillon Mitchell and/or overthrowing receivers as if they are athletic skyscrapers would help a bit to provide some spark. I just don’t if it was just UCLA being poor or Arroyo finally getting it together. The Pistol needs to be holstered. The biggest issue is the seemingly unknown offensive identity and putrid OL play at times.
  • Pass defense. Leavitt likes to get cute at times and outsmarts himself. UCLA was able to leverage not smart playcalling into touchdowns twice. I get the idea of daring opponents to beat the defense with the pass but isolating an woefully inconsistent youthful linebacker corps against the only two weapons worth covering isn’t good business. The Ducks were fortunate that Chip Kelly started a not ready DTR over an experienced Wilton Speight last week. This week, they are even more fortunate that Utah will be starting a true freshman with only 14 career pass attempts to his name. Will Leavitt call and execute a decent game? Having only three sacks in the past four games combined isn’t the most ideal thing, either. The defense needs to generate more pressure,

What are the odds?

The WestGate Superbook has Utah as 4.5 point favorites. O/U is set at 55.5. The money line is Utah -200 Oregon +170

William Hill has Utah as 4.5 point favorites. O/U is set at 55.5. The money line is Utah -180 Oregon +170

MyBookie.ag has Utah as 5 point favorites. O/U is set at 56. The money line is Utah -200 Oregon +170

Score prediction

Oregon 28 Utah 24