Utah will host the 3-7 Oregon Ducks on Saturday afternoon at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Ducks are substantial underdogs in this game, which is the first time Utah will be favored to beat Oregon since joining the Pac-12. Oregon’s rapid fall from the top of the standings has been somewhat surprising and many trace the beginning of their fall to last season’s 62-20 beat down by the Utes. This season Oregon only has pride left to play for, being virtually eliminated from bowl contention last week. If Oregon is to pull off the upset, their defense will need to improve dramatically.
Oregon brought in Brady Hoke in the offseason to shore up Oregon’s defensive woes from a year ago. Through 10 games this season, it is safe to say the change has not worked. Oregon might be the worst Pac-12 defense that Utah will have faced. The Ducks rank at or near the bottom of the Pac-12 in almost every defensive category.
Oregon is 11th in the Pac-12 in total yards allowed per game (535.7), passing yards allowed per game (292.7), passing touchdowns allowed (27), rushing yards allowed per game (243), yards per carry allowed (5.63) and in scoring defense (43.5 ppg). They are last in rushing touchdowns allowed (32).
While the Oregon defense has played very poorly this season. There are still some talented young players on the roster. Oregon’s recruiting classes have been good, but the coaching and technique appears to be lacking on the defensive side of the ball.
Duck fans received more bad news this week when defensive lineman Austin Maloata was kicked off the team after being arrested for DUI and reckless driving over the weekend. Defensive end Justin Hollins has been the most productive player on the line with 37 tackles, 6 tackles for a loss and 2 sacks. This is a match up the Utah offensive line should win.
Freshman Troy Dye (6-4, 225 lbs.) has emerged as the most productive player on the Duck defense. Dye is 8th in the Pac-12 in sacks with 5.5 and 4th in tackles with 74 total. He also is 3rd in conference with 12 tackles for a loss and has an interception. Junior middle linebacker Jimmie Swain is another productive player for the Oregon defense. Swain has 61 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss and 2 pass breakups.
Freshman safety Brendan Schooler (6-2, 190 lbs.) is one of the Ducks young exciting players, and leads the team with 4 interceptions. Cornerback Tyree Robinson (6-4, 205 lbs.) has an interception and 6 passes defended. At the other cornerback position, Arrion Springs (5-11, 205 lbs.) leads the team with 10 passes defended.
Once again this week, Utah will face a bottom tier Pac-12 defense. Troy Williams is coming off his best game as a Ute and should be able to build on that performance against a weak Oregon secondary. On the ground Joe Williams has been electrifying in past weeks and there is no reason not to expect a big game against a soft Oregon defensive line. Utah should be able to control the game on the ground and take shots downfield when needed through the air. I expect Utah to have similar offensive production to last week.