Oregon vs. Utah Odds & Picks: Our Experts Analyze Potential Pac-12 Title Preview (November 20)
Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Utah Utes flags.
- Utah and Oregon meet for a potential Pac-12 championship preview on Saturday.
- The Ducks will need to win out to maintain their position in the College Football Playoff discussion.
- Tanner McGrath and Michael Ianniello discuss which team to back, below.
Utah vs. Oregon Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
It feels like the world continues to undervalue Oregon.
The Ducks are 9-1 with road wins over Ohio State and UCLA, combined with one fluky loss to Stanford — in which they outgained the Cardinal, 414-354.
They’re ranked No. 3 in the country with a clear, marked path to the College Football Playoff. Yet, they’re catching points against a three-loss Utah team. This seems like a no-brainer.
Like many excellent football teams, the Ducks are built from the inside out. The offensive line ranks sixth in Line Yards, and the backfield ranks eighth in Rush Success Rate while getting stuffed at the lowest rate in the nation.
Moreover, Oregon is third nationally in Standard Downs Success Rate and sixth in preventing Havoc. Behind this stellar line, the Ducks consistently move the ball and almost never fall behind the sticks.
On the opposite side of the football, Kayvon Thibodeaux leads a top-25 defensive line in pass rush.
As they’ve done all season, the Ducks are going to dominate in the trenches. That’s where football games are won.
Kyle Whittingham has developed Utah into one of the most consistent programs in the Pac-12. In his 17th season in Salt Lake City, the Utes have posted a winning record in 15 of them, including a 7-3 record so far this year.
Through three games this year, Utah was sitting 1-2 and ranked 109th in Rushing Success and 79th in Passing Success Rate. Since then, it has won six of its next seven games.
Then, like a phoenix rising from the ashes… Cameron Rising took over as the Utes’ starting quarterback, and they have risen up the Pac-12 standings and can clinch with South with a win on Saturday.
Rising has tossed 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions and is the highest-graded quarterback in the Pac-12, per Pro Football Focus. Anthony Brown, meanwhile, ranks 10th.
Utah plays the exact style most would expect them to play, running a two-tight end set as often as any team in the country. It has at least two tight ends on the field on 66.2% of offensive snaps.
The Utes play out of 12 personnel 43% of the time and 13 personnel 20.2% of the time. They even run the occasional 23 personnel and just play big-boy football.
Tight ends Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid have each played at least 400 snaps this season, more than any other Utah skill position player. They each have five touchdowns this year, and no tight end in the conference has more.
The switch to Rising has not just improved the passing game but the offense as a whole, forcing defenses to respect the pass while opening up the run game. The Utes currently sit 16th in the country in Rushing Success and eighth in Line Yards.
They are averaging 242.3 rushing yards per game with 24 touchdowns since Rising took over. Let me say that again: Utah has 24 rushing touchdowns in the last seven games.
They have 14 rushing scores in the last three games.
Utah held out star running back Tavion Thomas last week against Arizona for precautionary reasons from a nagging injury, but he is expected to be back at 100% after coming off back-to-back four-touchdown games.
Oregon’s defense ranks 74th in the country in Rushing Success on defense and 46th in Line Yards. Utah is going to be able to open holes wider than the Oregon logo and run all over this defense.
McGrath: Mike’s chirping the Oregon defense without acknowledging Utah’s flaws.
The Utes’ defensive line ranks outside the top 75 in Line Yards and outside the top 50 in Rush Success Rate. Plus, Utah’s defense ranks just 48th in Standard Downs Success Rate.
And while Utah is allowing 138.5 rush yards per game at 3.9 YPC, Oregon beats those numbers considerably (119.7, 3.4).
Oregon actually ranks top-35 in both opponent rush and pass expected points, so maybe Mike’s undervaluing what this unit can do just a tad bit.
Plus, I believe it’a a little unfair to compare Rising to a phoenix.
Like Oregon, Utah has success on standard downs (although not as much success), but Rising hasn’t been able to bail his team out consistently. Utah ranks outside the top 70 in Passing Downs Success Rate, while Oregon’s top-40 in that stat.
Oregon ranks 16th in big-play prevention. So, Utah better have as much consistent standard downs success as Oregon, or the Utes are screwed.
Ianniello: It’s not that the world is undervaluing Oregon. It’s that the world doesn’t trust Oregon.
Are you sure you want to get into a war in the trenches with the Utes? Sure, Oregon is sixth in Line Yards, but Utah is right up there at eighth.
Utah’s Rushing Success Rate isn’t as high as Oregon’s for the full season, but that is taking into account the games before Rising took over. In Utah’s last seven games, it’s averaged 6.1 yards per carry, while Oregon has averaged 5.7.
Oregon’s offensive line is sixth at preventing Havoc, but it has yet to face a defensive front like the Utes, who rank fifth in the country at creating Havoc.
Utah has generated the most sacks in the Pac-12 with 31 in 10 games. It’s gotten to the quarterback 10 times more than Oregon, which sits second.
Yes, Thibodeaux is a beast. But Utah has allowed just 10 sacks all season, the fewest in the Pac-12 and ninth-fewest in the country. Its offensive tackles have not allowed a sack all season.
You want to play big-boy football with the Utes? Bring it on.
McGrath: Yes, I want to get into a big-boy battle with the Utes. That defensive front won’t have any time to get sacks when the Ducks are just going to run the ball over and over.
Oregon runs the ball 60% of the time, top-40 nationally. The offensive line will beat up on the average rush defense, and Brown will pick up more than a few yards on the ground himself.
Yes, the Utah offensive line has been very solid at avoiding sacks. But not necessarily at avoiding pressure, as the Utes rank just 61st in pass blocking.
Hopefully, for Mike’s sake, the Utah tackles continue to play at such a high level. If they don’t, Rising suffers a 28% drop in adjusted completion percentage when pressured.
Ianniello: I think we have established that both teams want to run the ball and have been really successful at it. We can also agree that neither defense has been elite at stopping the run, so they should be able to move the ball.
But what’s going to happen when they do pass? Rising has a passer grade of 83.4, per Pro Football Focus (first in the Pac-12), and Brown has a grade of just 68.0 (10th in the Pac-12).
Utah’s defense ranks 36th in the country in Passing Success Rate and has allowed over 270 passing yards just once all season.
The Ducks defense is down at 66th in Passing Success Rate and has allowed an average of 248.0 passing yards per game this year, the second-worst mark in the Pac-12.
Oregon’s coverage grade comes in at 99th in the country, tied with UNLV’s grade of 60.5.
McGrath: Bet Oregon +3
In the end, this is a spot you love the Ducks in. Oregon’s taken down the Utes in seven of their last 10 meetings.
Mario Cristobal’s Ducks have been an underdog just five times in the last three seasons, and they’ve covered in four of them. That includes twice this season, with Oregon winning outright catching points against Ohio State and UCLA.
Meanwhile, Whittingham’s team has been a favorite just 12 times over the last two seasons. The Utes are 5-7 against the spread in those games.
If you’re giving me the Ducks and points against a three-loss Utah team, I’m giggling.
Ianniello: Bet Utah -3
This is a spot you love? A Pac-12 team, ranked in the top four, needing to win to reach the College Football Playoff?
Since the playoff started in 2014, only two Pac-12 teams have made the CFP, and none have since 2016.
During the playoff era, Pac-12 teams that are ranked in the top five have gone just 11-17 ATS. Pac-12 teams in the top 10 are just 45-54-1 ATS and 3-6 as an underdog.
For a game that could be a rock fight, Oregon ranks 107th in the nation in tackling, which will be a problem against Thomas, who is sixth in yards after contact per attempt among all running backs with at least 100 carries.
Utah ranks higher in Success Rate in defending both the run and the pass, and it has the better quarterback on offense.
It’s at home here, and there’s a reason it’s favored. Take the Utes.