NO MORE BYE WEEKS!!! Thank the football gods! As much as we fans hate them, bye weeks are great for team health, and the Utes needed it. However, Utah didn't fully recover, Kalani Sitake's defense will likely have to face Sean Mannion and the Beavers without Tevin Carter, who is arguably their best weapon in the secondary. Even so, they will have to find a way to make plays and slow down one of the leagues most NFL ready QB's. Here are some things the Utes will need to do to keep this train rolling, and continue their push for the Pac-12 South division title.
No second guessing in the Secondary
Sean Mannion is currently on pace to break Matt Barkley's league passing records. He torched the Utah secondary last year with 443 yards and 5 touchdown passes in a heartbreaking Utah loss. Although, he won't have Brandon Cooks to throw to, he is still equipped with a stable of receivers that can and will make plays. Utah will have to do their best to limit big plays. Eric Rowe and Domonique Hatfield will be playing on an island for most of the game due to the lack of a "big time" wide receiver. In the event that the DB's do get beat, Brian Blechen and a young Andre Godfrey will have to be ready to give help. This means ball hawking and delivering hits that make the Oregon State WR's think twice about coming across the middle.
Stop the run... again
Every week Pac-12 teams face players that pose issues all over the field, and this week is no different. Last week, the Beavers' number one back ran for 102 yards on just 12 carries. Although, Utah has been fairly good against the run, they will need to shore some holes that UCLA was able to exploit a few weeks ago. Making this OSU team one dimensional will go a long way towards a win in Corvalis.
Throw the long ball
By all accounts Kendal Thompson is going to start as the signal caller Thursday night. If this holds true, he will need to have success throwing the ball beyond 15 yards. It's no secret that KT is dangerous when he runs, unfortunately, teams like OSU can, and do game plan very well for that situation. What will keep this Beaver defense honest is having success downfield. This will stop Oregon State head coach Mike Riley from loading the box with 8 or 9 guys, and making it nearly impossible for Utah to run the ball. Keep in mind that this is what we will probably see until KT proves he can deliver the long ball consistently.
I believe Utah will board their flight home Thursday night 5-1, with a huge matchup against USC looming. While Oregon State is a good football team, they've played close games with Colorado and Hawaii. They were blown out against USC, while dominating lowly San Diego State and Portland State. They have yet to show up in a meaningful game this year. If Utah can generate just one or two big plays down the field this week, they will win this game in convincing fashion.
Also, give a listen to today's episode of The U Fan Cast! We chat about and preview the matchup with Oregon State.