PAC-12 Title: Utah Utes vs. Oregon Ducks Pick
Utah Utes (11-1 SU, 9-3 ATS) vs. Oregon Ducks (10-2 SU, 6-6 ATS)
When: Friday, November 6, 8 p.m. EST
Where: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
Point Spread: UTAH -6.5/ORE +6.5 (BetNow)
Total: O/U 51
Outlook For Week 15
Two teams trending in different directions meet with the Pac-12 title and a possible bid to the College Football Playoff on the line. For Oregon, there’s no extra prize to expect with a win here. All the Ducks would get with a win is a bid to the Rose Bowl, which is a pretty nice consolation prize after Oregon got knocked out of the race for the playoff with its loss to Arizona State.
Utah would earn a Rose Bowl berth with a win as well, which would be an outstanding season in most years, given that the Utes have never played in the Rose Bowl and weren’t even members of the Pac-12 a decade ago. But Utah has its sights on a bigger prize, as enough dominoes have fallen to put the College Football Playoff in play for the Utes if Clemson or Georgia loses on Saturday. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham isn’t shying away from that possibility, as he made sure to tell his players that Alabama had lost on Saturday, setting up their shot at playing for a national title. Will the Utes crack under pressure or rise to the occasion the way they have for the past eight weeks?
How the Public is Betting the Utah/Oregon Game
The public clearly believes the Utes’ momentum is real, as it has bumped Utah up from a five-point favorite to a 6.5 point favorite since the line opened. The total has not budged.
More Picks: Big Ten Title: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin Pick
Utah reports no new injuries since Sept. 29.
Offensive lineman Jake Hanson missed the Oregon State game with an unspecified injury and is questionable for Utah, as is defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who is dealing with an unspecified situation.
When Utah Has the Ball
When 88 yards and a score is considered an off-day for your running back, things are going pretty darn well. That’s the situation in Salt Lake City, where Utah has reeled off eight straight wins since losing to USC and looks poised to make it nine. Quite frankly, the Utes didn’t even need Zack Moss or Tyler Huntley to have a big day against Colorado because their defense has been that dominant, but when Moss and Huntley are on, Utah becomes a scary squad. The Utes have scored at least 30 points in all but two games this year, and over the past five games, they’ve outscored their foes 197-53, and 28 of those 53 points belonged to Washington. The Utes have shown an ability to move the ball on just about anyone over the past two months. While they haven’t faced a defense as good as Oregon in that stretch, the Ducks have shown some vulnerabilities at times, such as the 31 points they gave up at Arizona State — a team Utah only needed 21 points to defeat.
When Oregon Has the Ball
Yes, it was a rivalry game, but you can’t help but be a little perturbed at just how out of sync Oregon’s offense was against Oregon State. The Beavers hadn’t stopped anyone except California outside of Corvallis, giving up no fewer than 31 points in their other three road games in the Pac-12, and yet the Ducks could only hang 24 points on their archrival. To make matters worse, seven of that came off a kickoff return, meaning Oregon could only scratch out 17 points on offense against a defense that had been one of the weakest in the Pac-12.
The cold, hard truth about Oregon is that quarterback Justin Herbert has done nothing spectacular over the second half of the season. Yes, he threw five touchdown passes at USC, but he only tossed for 225 yards, and that game was more the Ducks waiting for the Trojans to implode rather than going out and winning it. Other than the two Arizonas, Herbert has exceeded 300 passing yards on just two separate occasions this year: Montana and Nevada.
That’s a significant problem because now he’s going up against the Utah defense, which might be the best in college football. Against the run, it has been the best, which means the Ducks probably cannot rely on their stable of CJ Verdell, Travis Dye, and Cyrus Habibi-Likio to get things going. Herbert has to show he’s worthy of a high pick in the NFL in this game, or this is Utah’s to lose.
Utah hasn’t just been winning since the USC loss. The Utes have been a cover machine over the past two months, covering in all eight games they’ve played. The Utes have also been here before, playing in last year’s Pac-12 title game and losing a 10-3 battle with Washington. As you might expect with the Utes’ dominant defense, Utah has been a reliable under bet as well, with the under hitting in eight of Utah’s last 11 games, with one push.
Oregon hasn’t been great on a neutral field, covering just once in its past five games at a neutral site. But the Ducks have been good at bouncing back, as they’ve followed up an ATS loss with a cover in five of their past six situations. However, the one in that stretch was last week against Oregon State, speaking to the Ducks’ recent struggles.
This game will do nothing for Santa Clara’s reputation as an awful place to play football, as the temperature is projected to be 55 degrees with heavy rain in the forecast.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
Oregon seems to be a talented team that doesn’t know what to do with the talent it has, while Utah appears to be completely locked in on its goals. The Ducks might have been a top team earlier in the season, but Utah is on fire at the moment, and Oregon is not playing the kind of football that made it a contender for the playoff.
Based on recent results, I think the Ducks are done. Give me Utah to open the door to a spot in the playoff.