At the beginning of the college football season, it seemed as if a victory for the Utah Utes over the Oregon Ducks was next to impossible. Then again, it seemed that almost any team matched up against Oregon would be a slaughter on the part of the Ducks.
Granted, the Utes started out strong but they have dwindled since, leaving something to be desired in terms of a concrete offense. Their victory over Stanford, which tanked the team’s top 5 ranking, was in and of itself impressive. But then Stanford turning around and defeated Oregon, making the matchup between the Ducks and the Utes a whole different ballgame.
So, do the Utes have a fighting chance? While Oregon shattered their national title hopes when they were defeated by a controlling Stanford defense and offense, the Ducks are still known for having a dynamite offense. Averaging 51.7 points per game, the Utes hardly seem to match up, even on Oregon’s worst day.
The Oregon defense is nothing to be shy about either. They allow an average of 17.9 points per game and rank 29th in total defense, giving up 361.2 yards a game with 24 sacks.
But luckily for the Utes they lead the nation with 33 sacks. With that it seems the hopes and dreams of the Utes are still alive. Though the offensive struggles they face could bring that dream crashing down to reality in a fire of green and yellow.
The Utes are no doubt hurting with injured tight ends Westlee Tonga and Jake Murphy. They are struggling to find offensive answers to defensive attacks out on the field.
The struggle continues when we see that Dres Anderson is the only notable receiver for the Utes. Utah’s opponents are continuing to find ways to tear through their offensive lines with increasing ease.
Quarterback Travis Wilson seems to be a magnet for getting sacked. Arizona State sacked the QB four times in their 20-19 victory over the Utes. Additionally, Wilson has been sacked a total of 13 times in the last three games combined. This is significant because in the first six games he was only sacked eight times. I am far from being any kind of self-proclaimed mathematical genius, but something doesn’t add up there.
With all the evidence laid out it seems that the answer to the Utes’ woes rests within their offensive line. At the beginning of the season Utah had one of the most improved offenses in college ball and now finds itself in need of the most repair.
I want to see the Utes I saw against BYU back during that grand episode of the Holy War saga. I remember watching a team that looked so strong and so impenetrable that they made the Cougars look like kittens. If they can get back to that uniformity and depth they could really have something to take up against the Ducks.
Based on the fact that the Utes defeated Stanford, logic follows to say that they should in turn be able to defeat the Ducks. Many of the factors have changed since the Utes’ matchup with Stanford, however the potential is still there. The team itself should be able to remain intact despite a few injuries. It is all about maintaining the momentum gained and not losing sight of your goals.
I would think that Stanford’s victory over Oregon would be enough to rally the Utes and show them that they do indeed have the potential to dominate the Ducks. In order to do that the Utes need to strengthen their offense and most importantly protect Wilson. After that, they need to tighten their offensive line and not allow for easy breakage of that unit.
The Utes’ defense can take care of itself and seems to be what carries the team through to the end. This mentality will have to be strengthened even more against Oregon. Once the Ducks get a lead it seems almost impossible to stifle their efforts.
Overall, the Utes have the potential to defeat Oregon this weekend. If they were smart they would have used the week since the ASU defeat to focus on matching the strength of the offense to that of the defense. In doing that, Utah can easily come out as the victor this weekend.