Time and Place: 7:00pm Pacific (8:00pm Mountain/local), Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah
Odds: Oregon opened as 8-point favorites, and that has risen slightly to 8.5 or 9 depending on the sports book.
Final Thoughts: The Ducks head to Utah with their playoff destiny in their hands. We've been here before, and we've been burned before. We've especially been burned by the style of team that Utah is. While they aren't overly efficient on either side of the ball (thus kalon calling for Oregon to win and cover in his advanced stats preview), but they have a running back that can pound the opposition, and a defense that can wreak havoc in the backfield.
That last part is cause for concern. Nearly every team that has knocked off Oregon in big games in recent years has won the battle in the trenches when Oregon has held onto the ball. Auburn, LSU, Stanford, Arizona (at least this year). When Oregon gets shut down at the line of scrimmage, they don't win many games. And Utah at least has the threat that they can create positive defensive plays and get Oregon into obvious passing downs (and Utah has the best passing down sack rate in the country).
But this could very well be the best Oregon offense we've ever seen. Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner, as Dave and Rusty noted in their latest podcast, bring a different dimension to the Oregon running game that we haven't seen in many years. Freeman in particular nearly always gets positive yards, and that has been a major factor in Oregon being in great situations offensively. When they can stay in manageable down and distance situations, this offense is unstoppable.
As the Ducks close in on the college football playoffs, every game has added significance. So this game, Oregon's last real test of the 2014 regular season right after a very emotional beatdown of Stanford, will tell us a lot about this team and the coaching staff. If Oregon plays like we know they're capable of, this game won't be close. But it feels like we need that "prove it" moment from the Ducks in an obvious letdown spot before we buy in 100%.
We'll have coverage throughout the day, so keep coming back to ATQ. GO DUCKS!