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Opponent Preview: Oregon’s Offense

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NCAA Football: Oregon State at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Averaging a whopping 455.1 yards per game, the Oregon Ducks field one of the best offensive units in the PAC-12 behind only Washington State, whose famed air-raid attack has averaged 516.8 yards per game in 2019. The good news? Utah’s defense contained WSU to a season-low 13 points and 252 total yards, suggesting the Utes can shut down even the most prolific of offenses. The bad news? Despite ranking lower statistically, the eye test suggests Oregon’s attack is much more balanced, efficient, and anchored by some of the best talent in the West Coast.

Anybody who has paid any attention to PAC-12 football over the last year has undoubtedly heard of Oregon’s Justin Herbert. The former Heisman hopeful and potential first round NFL draft pick has produced some decent numbers in his senior season, completing 67.5% of his pass attempts, while averaging 9.3 yards per average and passing for 31 touchdowns with just five interceptions. The 6’6”, 237 lb. PAC-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year has demonstrated good poise in the pocket, likely thanks to a talented offensive line, headlined sophomore lineman, Penei Sewell (who himself was named Pro Football Focus’s PAC-12 player of the year), and isn’t known to scramble, recording a single rushing yard on the season, with one rushing touchdown to match.

Downfield, juniors Jaylon Redd (5’8”. 180 lbs.) and Johnny Johnson III (6’00”, 199 lbs.) have become favorite targets for Herbert, accounting for 35.5% of all of catches this season, with Johnson in particular outpacing the rest of the Ducks receivers by gaining an impressive 731 yards on the season, averaging 14.9 yards per reception. Whether this dynamic duo can maintain this success in the potentially wet weather in Santa Clara, CA remains to be seen; regardless, Utah’s secondary will be tested to the max against these two.

Sophomore running back, CJ Verdell (5’9”, 210 lbs.) has established himself as the Ducks’ featured back in 2019, gaining a team-high 963 yards on 162 carries with five TDs while his backfield partner, Travis Dye (5’10”, 192 lbs.) has chewed up 642 yards worth of turf this season on 102 carries, though Dye has found success out of the slot, adding another 159 receiving yards on 16 receptions. The duo of Verdell and Dye will likely have a large role going into Friday’s game due to the likelihood in inclement weather, making for an intriguing battle with Utah’s stout defensive line allowing a mere 56.4 yards on the ground per game, the lowest in the nation by a long way.

The fifth ranked Utes are far from guaranteed anything going into the post-season but with a spot in the College Football Playoff up for grabs, stopping Oregon’s prolific offense will inch Utah one step closer to capping off their historic season in a big way.