What: the PAC 12 Championship Game
Who: #5 Utah (11-1) vs #14 Oregon (10-2)
When: Friday 12/6, 5p PT
Where: Levis Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
TV / Streaming: ABC / ESPN
Betting Line: Utah -6.5, O/U 45.5
The Oregon Ducks and the Utah Utes have each been here before. For Kyle Whittingham and his Utes, this is a return trip to the site where they fell to Washington one year ago. For Oregon, it’s a chance to reclaim a title they last took when Chip Kelly led the Ducks to the National Championship game in the inaugural season of the College Football Playoff.
Utah enters tonight’s contest with a big chip on their collective shoulder and a possible selection to the CFP on the line. A weak strength of schedule has pundits wondering if the winner of the Big 12 Championship might in fact jump Utah even if the Utes claim the P12 title (Oklahoma and Baylor are #6 and #7, respectively, in the CFO rankings). It’s going to take a huge game for Utah to play their way in.
Unlike last year, Utah will make this attempt at full roster strength. QB Tyler Huntley has had a Player of the Year kind of season after missing last season’s finale due to injury. All he’s done is produce the league’s most efficient offense, passing at a 76% clip while averaging an outstanding 11.1 yards per attempt. Together with Zack Moss (1246 yards, 15 TDs, 6.2 ypc), the Utes will present the Oregon defense with their stiffest test of the season.
Oregon will try to counter with a defense that has excelled all year, particularly in preventing big plays and in generating turnovers. Stars LB Troy Dye and CB Thomas Graham Jr should be able to challenge a Utah offense that has seen little resistance over the past month.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this game will be the contest between Oregon’s Justin Herbert and that big boy Utah defense. The Utes, led by S Julian Blackmon, have been stingy against opposing passing attacks all year although rush defense (best in the nation) has been their calling card. The past two weeks have seen the Ducks offense sputter dramatically after averaging 41 points a game the previous five weeks. Whether or not the duo of Juwaun Johnson and Jaylon Redd can stretch that Utah D is a key storyline to watch.
Tonight also marks the last P12 Championship that will be held in Santa Clara. The game shifts to Las Vegas beginning in 2020. So, enjoy it while you can.
This is your open thread.