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Know Thy Enemy: Utah Utes

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Who are these Utes from Salt Lake City?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 16 UCLA at Utah Photo by Boyd Ivey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2019 record: 11-1 (8-1)

Key Numbers + Info (2019 season)

OOC Opponents: BYU, Northern Illinois, Idaho State

Points per game: 35.6

Points allowed per game: 11.2

Avg. yards per rush: 5.0

Avg. yards per rush allowed: 2.3

Avg. rush yards per game: 214.6

Avg. rush yards per game allowed: 56.2

Rushing TDs: 34 for, 4 against

Avg. pass yards per game: 239.0

Avg. pass yards per game allowed: 185.3

Avg per attempt: 10.7

Avg per attempt allowed: 5.7

Passing TDs: 17 for, 12 against

Collective Pass Completion Rate: 75%

Collective Pass Completion Rate Against: 56%

Leading Rusher: Zack Moss (200 attempts for 1,246 yards 15 touchdowns)

Leading Receiver: Brant Kuithe (29 receptions for 550 yards and six TDs)

Leading Tackler: Devin Lloyd (76 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks)

Leader in Sacks: Bradlee Anae (33 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks)

Analytics

Credit to Zane Murffit of Cougcenter.com for doing the Sports Source Analytics charts weekly. They are an immense help. Here’s a glossary to help you translate the numbers.

Utah Offense vs Oregon Defense

Utah’s offense is miles better than Oregon State based on success rate. The Utes surprisingly rank as only slightly above average run success rate teams in FBS. They are a clearly expected pass first team based on the analytics. They are ranked in the top five in FBS in yards per pass. Utah’s run game has been above average according to run success rate, averaging nearly 5.3 yards per carry before sacks.

Oregon dropped from their ninth ranking in total yards per play allowed in FBS from last week to 17th. Utah has converted 49.32% of its third downs but Oregon decreased its conversions allowed rate to the tune of 33.86%. The pass game will be match-up of strength on strength.

Utah is far better than Oregon State in generating the explosive play while Oregon decreased from the 12th to 18th position from the week prior. Oregon still remains a top three unit in red zone defense but the Utes have a significantly better ranked red zone offense than the Beavers did.

Where the Ducks can stop the Utes is on stuff rate as Utah are slightly above average in FBS. The havoc rate for the Ducks’ defense increased after Oregon State, decreasing from 8 to 19th. Utah is massively better than Oregon State in havoc rate offensively.

The Ducks will need to be wary of a wave of capable receivers and the best running back in the conference.

Utah is a top 15 offense in terms of explosion plays, ranking in the top ten in the pass game as the analytics bear out.

Defensively, Oregon dropped from the 18th position to 23rd in stopping the explosive pass play. The secondary will have to be on their toes against one of the more underrated passers in Tyler Huntley.

Utah will provide a slightly lesser test for the Ducks defense inside the 40 as they rank 31st in such opportunities. The Ducks maintained their second place ranking defensively in this category from last week.

As you can see, third down will be the key match-up (49% to 34% allowed) as both teams rank above average of the Power 5. Second down will be a battle between a top 35 offense against a top twenty defense. Utah has a first down success rate of 55% while Oregon stops teams on 42% of those.

Oregon Offense vs Utah Defense

Oregon’s offense should have a tough day against a near invincible Utes’ overall defense that ranks near the best in the nation in both the run and the pass. The run game success rate increased after the Civil War. It will be interesting to see how the run game fares against one of the best defenses in the country.

Oregon’s offense remained steady at averaging 6.5 yards per play while Utah’s defense is averaging 4.2 yards per play given up. The Utes’ run defense will be a strength on “weakness” match-up as they have allowed 3.39 yards per carry while the Ducks go for 5.48 per rush.

Where they are “vulnerable” is in the pass game. Oregon is 29th in the country in yards per attempt at 7.45 while Utah allows nearly 4.6 yards per attempt, ranking seventh in all of FBS.

In addition to being nearly invulnerable in pass and the run, the Utes are particularly good at not giving it up on third downs.

The Ducks need to focus their plan of attack on having a balance in both the run and pass as the Utes are equally adept at defending both.

Utah will provide a much stiffer test for the Ducks’ passing attack as they are ranked second in passing explosive rate defense.

Utah is a far better explosive run defense than the Beavers took the field with but the Ducks weren’t that explosive in the run game to begin with.

The Ducks should have plenty of issues with scoring inside the Utes’ 40 yard line as they are a talented defense in that category in all facets.

If you look at this chart, the game clearly will be decided on an second and third downs as Oregon’s offensive chances are on par with the Utes’ similarly highly ranked defensive numbers. Simply put, the Utes will need to stop the Ducks from gaining any type of momentum on first downs.

Oregon

First down success rate: 44%

Second down success rate: 45%

Third down success rate: 39%

Utah

First down success rate: 52%

Second down success rate: 41%

Third down success rate: 46%

Key players to watch

1. Zack Moss 5’10 222 Senior Utah

  • Moss is the best running back in the conference. He has pro level instincts and vision for the position. Not the best athlete but he gets by on power and the vision to avoid the tackles. He leads the nation in broken tackles by a RB. Would be ideal for a zone blocking system as he sees the hole and goes on one cut. Senior Bowl invitation accepted.

2. Bradlee Anae 6’3 265 Senior Utah

  • Anae is the top edge rusher in this conference, no questions asked. It has been this way for a couple of seasons now and no one has come close to getting to him. Senior Bowl invitation accepted

3. Leki Fotu 6’5 323 Senior Utah

  • H/W/L is impressive. He has a developing pass rush arsenal. Very good explosion skills off the ball. Hand usage is very good. Well built upper half. He’s a space eater that frees up his line mates to go make plays. A former offensive tackle so he already knows what it takes to defend against defensive tackles like him. Senior Bowl invitation accepted.

4. John Penisini 6’2 307 Senior Utah

  • One of the more underrated d-tackles in the game due to his star teammates around him. Wins with brute strength. And yes, that’s his real last name. Shrine Game invitation accepted.

5. Jaylon Johnson 6’0 190 Junior Utah

  • Johnson is an impressive physical cornerback prospect. Tackling is on point. Ball skills are great as well. He’s one of the better corners in the conference. Do not test this man in coverage.

6. Julian Blackmon 6’1 187 Senior Utah

  • Blackmon transitioned to safety from corner this season and he has lost very little. He has the length that NFL teams crave in DBs. Ball skills are a plus. Needs more functional strength as he is easily erased from the run game when going downhill. Senior Bowl invitation accepted.

Keys to an Oregon Win

  • Defense. In particular, the run defense. Andy Avalos must have a to contain the best running back in the conference, Zack Moss and the scrambling ability of Tyler Huntley. If he doesn’t, it will be a long day at the office for his charges because of Utah’s ability to grind out wins in dominant fashion.
  • Offensive Line. Auburn’s defensive front was a stiff test for this underwhelming group. Utah is a much bigger test as the Utes boast NFL talent on all three levels that can cause havoc. Can the line give Herbert time to do anything?
  • Tackling. It has to be at the forefront as the tackling has been an issue for several weeks and against Moss, it will be a chore to stop him even if he’s tackled properly.

Keys to an Oregon Loss

  • Marcus Arroyo. He has called a pretty decent season so far. Can he find some creativity against the best defense that he will face all year? Also, does he pull a Lane Kiffin and get distracted by the head coaching rumor mill?
  • Justin Herbert. Herbert will need to come up with the best game of his playing career to beat the Utes and solidify his draft status. Can he conjure up Good Herbert instead of the Bad to Godawful Herbert that we’ve been seeing lately? Win this game and his Ducks legacy is secure, lose this game and he’s just another QB.
  • Mario Cristobal. Game management. That’s it.
  • Camden Lewis. Just make the kicks without any additional drama.

What are the odds?

The WestGate Superbook has Utah as 6.5 point favorites. The O/U is 46. Money line is Utah -250 Oregon +200

William Hill has Utah 6.5 point favorites. O/U is set at 46. Money line is Utah -240 Oregon +200

DraftKings has Utah as 6.5 point favorites. O/U is 45.5. Money line is Utah -250 Oregon +200

Shane Roberts of Block U was kind enough to join us to preview the Utes here