Utah Football to Face Oregon with Huge Implications Nationwide

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Junior center Nick Ford and junior wide receiver Solomon Enis walk out of the tunnel at the game against Arizona State football in Salt Lake City on Oct. 16, 2021. (Photo by Jonathan Wang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Assistant Sports Editor

 

The University of Utah football team, ranked No. 23, is preparing for their biggest game of the season against the Oregon Ducks on Saturday. Oregon is ranked at No. 3 in the nation, and is in line to make the College Football Playoff if they win out. Utah has a chance to play spoiler for Oregon, clinch the Pac-12 South and get one step closer to a Rose Bowl berth. This is a huge, meaningful game for both teams, and is likely a preview of the Pac-12 Championship game.

Scouting Utah

The Utes are coming off a victory over Arizona on the road. The score was 38-29, which is maybe a little too close for comfort against a one-win Wildcats team. Still, the Utes got the job done, and sometimes that’s all you can ask for in a long college football season. 

They stay at one loss in Pac-12 play, one game ahead of Arizona State. The magic number is one with two games to play, meaning that the only scenario where Utah is not playing for the Pac-12 Title in Las Vegas on Dec. 3 is if they lose both of their remaining games, and ASU wins out. 

The Sun Devils will visit Oregon State on Saturday before heading home to face Arizona to close out their season. Utah has Colorado at home next week.

The Utes have been playing high-quality football since two early non-conference losses. The only defeat since then was a shootout at Oregon State on Oct. 23. 

Utah is favored by three in this game, which says a lot about the direction they have been trending as the season has gone along. 

Scouting Oregon

Oregon only has one loss, coming way back on Oct. 2 when they were stunned by Stanford in overtime, 31-24. They’ve had a few close calls since then, but have maintained their position as one of the top teams in the country. 

Their signature win was over Ohio State on Sept. 11, 35-28. That win catapulted them into the top echelon of college football, and the fact that they’ve only lost one game since has kept them there by default.

What’s at Stake

This game has huge implications for end-of-season scenarios around the country. Oregon is in line for a College Football Playoff berth, sitting at No. 3 in the latest poll. If they don’t lose the rest of the way, they’re in. One loss, however, likely takes them out of the conversation. 

Oregon has clinched the Pac-12 North. They will face Utah, Oregon State and likely Utah again in the Pac-12 Championship game. They’re playing for a shot at the national title.

Utah is hoping for a chance at the Rose Bowl. Whoever wins the Pac-12 Championship will be the representative in Pasadena; however, if the Ducks are in the playoff, they will not be eligible.  So, the Utes effectively need to beat the Ducks twice within two weeks in order to get to the Rose Bowl. 

A win for Utah here but a loss in Las Vegas takes Oregon out of the playoff but hands them the Pac-12 title, sending the Ducks to the Rose Bowl and Utah to a lesser bowl game. 

Two losses for Utah could mean that the Ducks will go to the playoff and Utah would be at five total losses on the season. That creates an interesting scenario for the Rose Bowl: would they rather take a five-loss Utah team, or pivot to another team, one that didn’t play for the Pac-12 Championship? Three-loss Arizona State becomes an option, or maybe they buck tradition and reach outside of the Pac-12, given the lack of quality options. It’s a scenario the Utes would like to avoid.

Of course, if Utah does beat Oregon twice and handles business against Colorado, that makes the Rose Bowl all but guaranteed. 

Final Thoughts

The Ducks are a team with a lot of experience, they’re well coached and perennially contend for the Pac-12. Utah has been improving their play consistently throughout the season, and are ready to finally break through and stake their claim for the Pac-12 Championship.

It will be a tough task for both teams on Saturday, and the two have been on a collision course all season. Whatever happens over the last few weeks of the season, it’s sure to be exciting. There’s still plenty to play for.

Oregon @ Utah will kick off at 5:30 p.m. MST from Rice-Eccles Stadium and will air on ABC.

 

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