The Utah Utes are Heating Up
At 9 and 1, the Utah Utes are truly coming into their own. After moving from the Mountain West Conference to the Pac-12, they took a few seasons to get their feet under them. Now. ranked No. 7 in the nation (just one spot behind Oregon), the Utah Utes are making their name known. Just two more regular-season games and a pivotal clash against the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 Championship. If the Utes win all three, they earn College Football Playoffs or at least a Rose Bowl appearance.
Utah vs Oregon. Who gets playoffs?
The gap between the Utah Utes and Oregon Ducks is slight. Both programs sit at 9 and 1 in the Pac-12 and they are side by side in the AP rankings. Additionally, Oregon’s only loss this season came to Auburn (currently ranked 15th), while USC (currently ranked 23rd) beat Utah. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Oregon a 48.1-percent chance of winning the Pac-12 Title and Utah a 38.1-percent chance. It’s ever so close.
Across the experts, analysts and fans, the debate is tight. SB Nation’s Fan Pulse ranked Utah at 7 and Oregon at 8. Even ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura and Mark Schlabach are split in their Oregon vs Utah projections. While both have LSU making the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Bonagura has Utah and Schlabach picked Oregon.
Ever so close to each other, here’s why the Utah Utes will reign supreme in the Pac-12.
The Utah Utes Defense is Elite
Through 10 games, they’ve allowed just 11.3 points-per-game to opponents. They are elite.
According to PFF grading, Utah’s defense is the third-best in the FBS. Breaking it down further, PFF ranked Utah top-five in both run-defense and coverage. Against Utah, runners average 2.3 yards-per-carry, while only scoring three rushing touchdowns against them all season. There’s no room to run with stars like Leki Fotu and John Penisini hovering.
In coverage, the Utah Utes are equally impressive. Terrell Burgess and Julian Blackmon are at the top of their game. Opposing quarterbacks average:
- 56-percent Completion Percentage
- 193 Passing Yards
- 1 Passing Touchdown
- 1.3 Interceptions
Their defense is stout against the run, can cover any receiver and is opportunistic. In addition to their 13 interceptions, the Utes also have 7 fumble recoveries. They capitalize on mistakes. And, they limit opposing big plays.
- 2.4 yards after contact-per-rush (No. 4)
- 23 runs over 10 yards (No. 3)
- 10.3 yards-per-reception (No. 8)
- 37 passes of 15 yards or more (No. 5)
It’s Hell to go against the Utah defense.
An Offense to Match Oregon’s
For anyone that watches Utah Utes games, Tyler Huntley is the Russell Wilson of college football. Efficient, accurate and deadly in limited opportunities. Remember that Tyler Huntley was the best quarterback in the Pac-12 and still is now. He’s the big reason why the Utah Utes are averaging 34.7 points-per-game and blowing out opponents.
Yes, Justin Herbert is still ranked as the better quarterback prospect by most. But, come on, we can’t keep ignoring Huntley. His efficiency is off the charts!
- 78.6-percent Completion Percentage (No. 2)
- 86.2-percent Adjusted Completion Percentage (No. 3)
- 11.5 Yards-Per-Attempt (No. 2)
- 12.5 Adjusted Yards-Per-Attempt (No. 3)
- 190.1 Passing Efficiency Rating (No. 5)
- 13 Touchdowns, 1 Interception
- 221 Rushing Yards and 5 Rushing Touchdowns
In comparison, Justin Herbert only ranks higher than Huntley in passing yards and passing touchdowns. The rest goes to Huntley and proves he’s the better quarterback right now.
In addition, Zack Moss continues to prove he’s a top running back prospect.
His stats this season are unbelievable:
- 6.2 yards-per-carry
- 16.9 yards-per-reception
- 61 broken tackles on 154 carries
- 955 rushing yards
- 288 receiving yards
- 14 total touchdowns
Moss is powerful, physical runner. He’s difficult to tackle and has the ability to take any carry to the house. Combining his rushing talent with Huntley’s elite passing created the best offense in the Pac-12.
Utah Utes and Oregon Ducks common opponents
So far this season, the Utes and Ducks had four common opponents. USC, Washington State, Cal and Washington. In those matchups, Oregon won all four. The Utah Utes, on the other hand, lost to USC. So, Oregon is 4-0 against common opponents, while Utah is 3-1. The edge goes to Oregon. Right?
Actually, it’s a bit more complicated. Oregon handily beat USC 56-24, while Utah lost 23-30. They also both let Washington keep it close. But, Utah beat Cal and Washington State by far better margins. Oregon won 17-7 against Cal. Meanwhile, Utah torched Cal 35-0. Additionally, Oregon barely beat Washington State 37-35. But, Utah won with ease 38-13.
Yes, they lost to USC. But, it’s far closer than people think. Utah is proving to be a powerful adversary.