On Saturday afternoon, Utah and Oregon will put on an exciting game, with Utah hoping to secure its 19th straight home win and Oregon hoping Bo Nix will come through big again. Urah’s defense has led them to some impressive wins, and that defense has been able to overcome the offense, losing starting quarterback Cam Rising before the season even started.
Utah’s Jonah Elliss has been one of the nation’s most dominant players across all positions this season, amassing 14 tackles for loss (TFLs) and ten sacks – one of many on a solid front seven that has allowed only an average of 78 rushing yards per game.
Utah, in turn, has played five significant teams and won four of the five contests despite some questionable to downright ugly metrics. They have shown signs of improvement recently as their offense finds its way with a converted quarterback at the running back position; winning with a backup quarterback against good teams is not easy, but the Utes always seem to find a way.
The Ducks will put their impressive offense (second in EPA per play and fourth in success rate) up against an aggressive Utah defense (18th in EPA per play and sixth in success rate). Utah has shown dominance against lesser opponents but gave up 5.9 yards per play against Baylor, 5.8 against Oregon State, and 6.9 by USC.
Oregon stands in close comparison to USC despite having an entirely different offensive composition. They rank first in line yards, front seven havoc, PFF run-blocking grade, and second pass-blocking grade among FBS teams but will be put through their paces this season for sure.
On paper, at least, Oregon should be well-equipped to face off against Utah’s formidable front seven; however, their best opponent all year was likely Washington, ranking only 130th in both front seven havoc and stuff rate, respectively, compared with Utes, who rank 9th overall and 16th for front seven havoc and stuff rate respectively.
Oregon’s defense has improved dramatically this season, ranking 28th in EPA per play and making significant strides since last season. Expect their defensive strength to be tested here by Utah’s run-heavy offense that relies heavily on controlling games from within and keeping chains moving.
The Ducks have not allowed any of their opponents to eclipse 100 rushing yards this season while also playing against weak rushing attacks like Texas Tech (174 yards at 5.46 per pop) or Washington (23 times for 99 yards and 4.34 average per attempt) that have managed such an accomplishment.
The Utes are a handful at home and with a dominant defensive front and a strong running game, the Utes and +6.5 points seems like a great value bet.
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