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Happy fans or not, losing Marcus Arroyo makes large impact for Ducks

Happy fans or not, losing Marcus Arroyo makes large impact for Ducks

After three seasons at Oregon, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo has agreed to become the new head coach at UNLV. 

Arroyo’s salary at Oregon was $825,000, the third highest Pac-12 Conference assistant salary. Arroyo's contract does have a buyout that would require the coach to pay 20% of his guaranteed salary remaining but that is waived because Arroyo took a head coaching position at the FBS level, which UNLV is a part of.

Why UNLV? Why now?

Arroyo’s head coaching aspirations are realized at UNLV in the Mountain West Conference. The 39-year-old has ties to the Mountain West, playing quarterback at San Jose State (1998-2002), coaching quarterbacks at San Jose State (2006-2008) and coaching quarterbacks/offensive coordinator at Wyoming (2009-10).

He’s raking over a Rebels program with some shiny new facilities and recruiting tools (something Arroyo is used to at Oregon). UNLV’s priority was to hire a head coach before early signing period for the 2020 class occurs from December 18-20. The Rebels have 10 players committed for what 247Sports ranks as the Mountain West’s No. 3 class.

The Rebels recently opened a $34.8 million, 73,000-square-foot Fertitta Football Complex, a likely recruiting highlight for his new staff.

Arroyo takes over a program with three winning seasons in 27 years. Tony Sanchez went 20-40 over five seasons before being officially fired Nov. 25.

Fan Un-favorite

Oregon fans developed a strong dislike towards Arroyo this season.

“Why did the Ducks throw downfield more against Auburn?”

“Where is the play-calling creativity?”

“Why are Arroyo’s play calls so predictable? One-dimensional?

“How come there aren’t many explosive plays?”

Some fans go as far to say that Arroyo didn’t develop senior quarterback Justin Herbert to his full potential.

In reality, Oregon’s offense has improved over Arroyo’s tenure and much of the “lackluster-ness” is due to UO coach Mario Cristobal’s strength and power offense designed to dominate the trenches and pound the ground.

Coming off possibly his best play calling performance in Oregon’s 37-15 win over Utah, Arroyo’s offense averaged 35.2 points per game this season. That ranked second in the Pac-12 Conference behind Washington State’s air raid. Arroyo coached Herbert to 3,333 yards passing with 32 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Running back CJ Verdell reached 1,000 yards rushing for his second-straight season. 2019 marked the second consecutive year and fourth time in program history that Oregon has had a 3,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher in the same season. The Ducks also lead the nation with number of players with a touchdown (19) and number of players with a receiving touchdown (12).

The proof is in the pudding... Oregon is 11-2, won the Pac-12 title and has a chance to win its first Rose Bowl since 2014.

What impact does this have?

With Justin Herbert NFL bound in April, Oregon’s offense will be likely run by quarterback Tyler Shough in 2020. Herbert’s heir, Shough, was recruited by Arroyo.

As evident with Herbert, who sustained three different head coaches throughout his Oregon career, coaching turnover can stunt growth and slow progress.
It’s expected that Cristobal will stick to his offensive philosophy but coaching turnover will undoubtably have an affect on Shough, who has spent two seasons with Arroyo. A big question mark is how much of an affect? Will Shough have to learn a new offense over the summer with a matchup against Ohio State looming in non-conference play?

[READ: Dana Shough's fight and win over breast cancer the "largest championship game" she's ever been in]
As with any coaching change, the 2020 recruiting class may be effected as recruiting sharks will emerge in attempt to steer prospects to other Pac-12 coaches. Oregon’s class currently ranks No. 1 in the Pac-12 and No. 11 in the nation. With Cristobal’s recruiting prowess, I wouldn’t expect UO to take too big of a hit.

Other notable current Ducks who were recruited by Arroyo: wide receivers Mycah Pittman, Josh Delgado and JR Waters.

Who could be replacement?

Oregon has a few candidates in house that could be promoted within, like running backs coach Jim Mastro. However, if I were a betting woman, I’d say the Ducks will open up a nation wide search.

Two years ago, Cristobal was named head coach, now the Ducks are headed to the Rose Bowl

Two years ago, Cristobal was named head coach, now the Ducks are headed to the Rose Bowl

The No. 6 Oregon Ducks (11-2, 8-1 Pac-12) punched their ticket to their eighth Rose Bowl by handedly beating Utah in the Pac-12 Championship game. Ironically, on his two-year anniversary of being promoted to head coach, Mario Cristobal officially learned that the 106th Rose Bowl will be a classic physical battle between Oregon vs. No. 8 Wisconsin.

From a 7-6 record topped with Las Vegas Bowl loss in 2017 to an 11-2 record with a chance to win the “Granddaddy of them all” in 2019, the improvement is substantial and Cristobal is only getting started on this trajectory. Cristobal’s comments when he was reminded of his anniversary:

Just indebted and gratitude beyond what words can describe for that day, the opportunity from Rob Mullens and the administration and, of course, the players who really -- you know, they fought and spoke strongly about it. So it's been -- it's been everything and more that one could ever ask for, and I do feel like we're just kind of getting started and going on a trajectory. The program is what we want it to be. So it's hard to stop and think about it, right, with all the stuff we've got to do, especially in the middle of recruiting. But, again, it's all of those things and more and just looking forward to playing in the Rose Bowl.

The senior class (quarterback Justin Herbert, linebacker Troy Dye, offensive lineman Shane Lemieux, etc) and Cristobal have a special bond and connection. As freshmen in 2016, they played on a team that finished 4-8 and left out of a bowl game. In 2017, Cristobal joined the coaching staff and brought discipline with him. Later that season, more than 70 Duck players signed a petition to UO Athletic Director Rob Mullens, lobbying for Cristobal to take over the program when former coach Taggart departed for Florida State. Oregon’s current seniors and a few juniors are the only remaining players who signed that petition.

For that, Cristobal is deeply thankful.

In his two seasons, Cristobal has coached Oregon to 20 wins, including: four victories (undefeated) against rivals Washington and Oregon State, a RedBox Bowl win and Oregon's first conference title since 2014. The Ducks have gone from unranked to No. 6 and have landed the program's best two recruiting classes in history. Not bad. 

The Ducks have 23 days to prepare for the Badgers, who have an impressive resume with three top-25 wins. What will Oregon’s bowl game prep consist of?

We'll use every day allotted to us… We have final exams now. So those guys will take a deep dive in academics and handle all their business now. And then while we have some strength and conditioning sessions and some rehabilitation, mobility sessions, get the bodies back. But we came out of the game healthy, and we really want to take advantage of these practices, not only from a preparations standpoint, which is the most important part, but also from a player development standpoint. We still have some guys that haven't used their four games. They haven't red shirted and we feel that could help us a little bit. So, it will be business as usual. It really will. After a week off, we feel that we can go back to our regular routine and not really off too much.

So, the Ducks have three weeks to tune up their already healthy roster, develop underclassmen, ace their finals and get back to routine practice for Wisconsin.

With Cristobal’s stamp so deeply engraved on the Oregon program, it’s hard to believe that just two years ago he got the call to be at the top.

Oregon vs. Wisconsin in the 106th Rose Bowl: 3 things that jump out about the Badgers

Oregon vs. Wisconsin in the 106th Rose Bowl: 3 things that jump out about the Badgers

There wasn’t a whole lot of drama surrounding the College Football Playoff and bowl game reveal this year. No. 1 LSU will play No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl Semifinal and No. 2 Ohio State will play No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl Semifinal. However, Oregon fans were reeling to see who Ducks would face in the Rose Bowl: Penn State or Wisconsin. It’d be easy to make a case for each but…

Oregon’s eighth Rose Bowl appearance will be versus Big Ten opponent Wisconsin.

In the final College Football Playoff rankings, the Pac-12 Conference champion Ducks (11-2, 8-1 Pac-12) are No. 6, while Wisconsin (10-3, 7-2 Big Ten) is No. 8.

The Ducks will play in the “Granddaddy of them all” in Pasadena, California at 2 p.m. (PT) on January 1, 2020. After winning the Pac-12 Championship game against Utah, the Ducks are tied with Stanford for the most conference title game wins with three. Also, the impressive win against the Utes marked the first time the Ducks have beaten a top-5 team since dismantling Florida State in the 2015 Rose Bowl.

Oregon’s 11-win season has been highlighted by some incredible defensive play. The Duck defense has help 12 of it 13 opponents under their season average with the lowest point allowed per game (15.7) in school history since 1966.

[READ:Budding Oregon football star Kayvon Thibodeaux already breaking records with no ceiling in sight]

Oregon offense peaked at the perfect time against the Utah’s nation-leading rushing defense. The Ducks finished with 432 yards of total offense with 239 yards on the ground. Entering the game, Utah was allowing just 241.6 yards per game and 56.2 yards on the ground.

The Ducks will need another complete game against Wisconsin. A sneak peak into the New Year’s six matchup reveals three important things about the Badgers:

1. It’s Wisconsin’s 10th Rose Bowl appearance, losing each of the last three matchups, which includes the 2012 Rose Bowl when the Ducks deafeated a Russell Wilson led Badgers team, 45-38.

2. The Badgers have an impressive 2019 resume, with three top-25 wins (Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota). Maybe the most intriguing? Wisconsin roared into the Big Ten Championship Game with a dominating first-half lead, but Ohio State rallied back to claim the Big Ten title, 34-21.Their biggest blemish is a one-point road loss to Illinois.

3. Wisconsin’s leading rusher, Jonathan Taylor, plans to play in the Bowl Game. Against Ohio State, Taylor rushed for 148 yards and one touchdown, becoming the seventh player in FBS history to reach 6,000 yards rushing in his career. The junior is considered a likely candidate to enter the 2020 NFL draft. Last month, he was listed as the No. 27 overall prospect by ESPN's Todd McShay and the No. 2 running back by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.

Get your popcorn ready, this is going to be a fun matchup!

Oregon running backs coach Jim Mastro linked to head coaching job

Oregon running backs coach Jim Mastro linked to head coaching job

Oregon's running back coach and run game coordinator Jim Mastro has been linked as a leading candidate for the open Cal Poly head coaching position, according to Football Scoop.

Mastro played at and began his coaching career at Cal Poly. After coaching from 1989-96 at Cal Poly, he moved on to Idaho, Nevada, UCLA, Washington State and currently Oregon.

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal is very aware of the coaching carousel and said this of his staff last Monday.

 

The coaching carousel, that’s never going to go away and it’s always going to be what it is. We have really good relationships here and opportunities are going to come up for coaches. I’m always in favor of helping guys if they have a better situation and a better opportunity to better their careers, as it relates to their goals and their families. I can’t agree with their being any better opportunity than being here at Oregon, right, so I’ll always be very honest.


Mastro and the Ducks are coming off a spectacular rushing performance against Utah, the nation’s top running defense in the Pac-12 Championship game. Running back CJ Verdell has totaled 1,171 yards this season, rushing for 208 yards against the Utes, who were allowing just 58 yards on the ground per game on average.

So far in 2019, Oregon's running backs have rushed for 2,441 yards with Verdell reaching 1,000 yards for the second straight season.

Mastro came to Oregon after spending the six seasons (2012-17) coaching running backs at Washington State. During the 2017 season, WSU's running backs combined to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in both rushing (1,096) and receiving (1,073) for the second consecutive season, finishing with a combined 2,169 yards. The year before (2016), the Cougars were just one of four teams in the country to have their running backs eclipse 1,000 yards in both rushing (1,660) and receiving (1,034).

Budding Oregon football star Kayvon Thibodeaux already breaking records with no ceiling in sight

Budding Oregon football star Kayvon Thibodeaux already breaking records with no ceiling in sight

In Oregon’s Pac-12 Championship game victory, the Duck defense suffocated Utah.

Oregon silenced Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley, who entered the game as the nation’s second most efficient quarterback. The Ducks picked off Huntley twice to add to their nation-leading 19 interceptions this season. Oregon created negative plays with a season-high six sacks, which broke the Pac-12 Championship Game record.

One of their not so secret weapons? True freshman defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who finished with 2.5 of those sacks, setting a new Pac-12 Championship game record for most sacks. Thibodeaux lived in the backfield all night, applying constant pressure on Huntley, almost hunting him like prey.

It’s not the only record Thibodeaux set in the Rose Bowl clinching victory. His blocked punt (which he almost scooped and scored) was the first blocked punt in Pac-12 Championship game history.

The nation’s No. 1 recruit in 2019 has been on a tear in the last five games, adding 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks to his season total.

His nine sacks this season broke Troy Dye’s previous freshman program record of 6.5 sacks. Thibodeaux is in good company, as the first Duck with nine sacks since former Duck, current San Francisco 49er, DeForest Buckner in 2015.

The scary/exciting part? It’s just the beginning for Thibodeaux, with no ceiling in sight.

I feel like I've gotten a lot better. I'm going to continue to get better. You could say it's only up from here, as long as I keep putting in the work, should see good results. --Thibodeaux

Or as he simply put it, “The proof is in the pudding.”

With one game left in his freshman campaign, Thibodeaux can still reach his goal of 10 sacks for the season. Oregon will play in the Rose Bowl on January 1st for the first time since 2014. Will the bright lights of the “granddaddy of them all” intimidate Thibodeaux?

For me it just sounds like another Tuesday.

(Note- The Rose Bowl is on Wednesday, Jan 1.)

CJ Verdell makes Pac-12 Championship history and smells like roses

CJ Verdell makes Pac-12 Championship history and smells like roses

Oregon running back CJ Verdell sprinted across the field at rainy Levi’s Stadium leaving a sprinkle of brown mud flipping from his white Nike cleats.

After barreling into the end zone for three scores in Oregon’s upset victory over No. 5 Utah, Verdell was dashing to the stage, where his teammates awaited, dancing with confetti, alongside the Duck mascot and second year head coach Mario Cristobal.

The sophomore grabbed a ‘Pac-12 Champions’ adorned hat and t-shirt before presented with the Most Valuable Player trophy.

The Ducks won their first Pac-12 Championship since 2014, earning the conference’s automatic berth to the Rose Bowl, by beating Utah 37-15. They snapped Utah’s eight-game winning streak and ended the Utes’ College Football Playoff dream.

Quite frankly, I think maybe these guys all week long got a little bit tired of hearing we weren't the more physical team. It gives you a little bit of an edge. --Cristobal 

Against the nation’s No. 1 rushing defense, Verdell made history. The Utes entered the game allowing an average of 56.3 yards per game, with only one team to rush for over 100 yards. Verdell doubled that amount, alone, with 208 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown that was the longest run in Pac-12 title game history.

How did Verdell feel about being in Utah’s shadow, leading up to the game?

Definitely put a little chip on our shoulders. We try not to focus on the outside noise too much. Hearing they're the most physical team in the Pac-12 made us want to come out here and work even more harder. --Verdell

The clutch performance sent Verdell over the edge to surpass 1,000 rushing yards for the second-consecutive season, becoming the fifth Oregon running back to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back years and the third to do it as a freshman and sophomore.

Verdell gave all credit to his offensive line.

I couldn't have done anything on that field without the O-line, They made the holes, paved the way for me to give the big runs. I got to give it all up to them. --Verdell

In Oregon’s most complete game of the season, the Ducks won the battle in the trenches, the defense held Utah scoreless in the first half and quarterback Justin Herbert showed off his mobility. Afterwards, Verdell and the Ducks celebrated in the locker room smelling of mud, sweat and a slight hint of roses.

Instant Analysis: No. 13 Oregon upsets No. 5 Utah to take the Pac-12 Conference crown

Instant Analysis: No. 13 Oregon upsets No. 5 Utah to take the Pac-12 Conference crown

SANTA CLARA- In a battle for the Pac-12 Conference Championship between its two most physical teams, the No. 13 Oregon Ducks (11-2, 8-1 Pac-12) beat No. 5 Utah at Levi’s Stadium to win its first conference championship since 2014.

The 37-15 win ties Oregon with Stanford for most Pac-12 Championship Game victories (3).

Also, do you smell the roses? Oregon earned the program’s eighth appearance in the Rose Bowl with the win.

Here are the top three takeaways from the contest.

1. Run, Herbert, Run!

Oregon couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. On the opening drive of the game, the Ducks flexed their strength in the trenches with a defensive stop on fourth-and-short.

The defense put the offense in the position to succeed… Which it did. Quarterback Justin Herbert’s legs added a wrinkle that Utah’s defense wasn’t prepared for. On one of Oregon’s best drives of the season, Herbert kept it on the zone read to rush for 22 yards. Running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio punched in a seven-yard touchdown to cap a nine-play, 67-yard drive and give Oregon an early 7-0 lead.

Did Oregon wait three months to set up this mobile Herbert? If so, it worked. Oregon’s 10 first quarter points tie the most against Utah this season (with USC, Utah’s only loss). Oregon totaled 263 yards of offense in the first half and Utah entered the game allowing 241.6 yards per game.

2. Explosion plays

This season, Utah has allowed just four plays of 40 or more yards.

In the first half alone, Oregon had two explosive, momentum-building plays of 40+ yards.

Herbert showed off his great touch on a deep ball to wide receiver Juwan Johnson, a 50-yard gain to the two-yard line. Then, wide receiver Johnny Johnson III burned the Utah corner to get wide open for a 45-yard touchdown. The junior’s touchdown grab is his fifth in the last four games.

Running back CJ Verdell earned the longest run in Pac-12 Championship history in the 4th quarter with a 70-yard touchdown rush. Verdell finished with 208 yards rushing.

Johnson III had an unbelievable 33-yard grab in double coverage over the back of a Utah defender.

3. Duck defense in the clutch

Against the Pac-12 conference’s most efficient quarterback Tyler Huntley and best running back Zack Moss, the Duck defense held Utah to zero points in the first half. It marked Oregon’s eighth game in which Oregon didn’t allow a touchdown in the first half. Utah was held scoreless in the first half for the first time this season.

Oregon made big stops in the clutch, holding Utah to 0-for-6 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth down in the first half. Brady Breeze also grabbed an interception, only Huntley’s third of the season.

One of the biggest stops came with 7:45 left in the third quarter, Utah went for it on 4-and-2, trailing 20-7 and don’t convert. Thomas Graham came up with the deflection to give the ball to the offense at midfield.  

In the end, Oregon ended Utah’s eight-game winning steak, halting the Utes’ College Football Playoff dreams.

--

More to come with quotes and videos from Coach Mario Cristobal and Ducks players.

Will rain & strong wind threaten Oregon's offense in the PAC 12 Championship Game?

Will rain & strong wind threaten Oregon's offense in the PAC 12 Championship Game?

The forecast for the Pac-12 Championship game is rainy with projected 20+MPH winds.

This morning, it's beautiful and sunny in Santa Clara, but that's expected to change.

The weather could be a major factor in what will likely be a muddy clash for the Pac-12 title between No.13 Oregon and No. 5 Utah. Levi’s Stadium has real grass, by the way. It could be a muddy mess.

When describing the forecast to Oregon linebacker Troy Dye, he responded, “Sounds like a regular day in Eugene.”

Which is ironic, because it was so sunny in Eugene this week, the Ducks had to prepare for the bad weather with artificial wet drills by soaking the footballs.

The only time the Ducks played in the rain this season was at Washington. In that game, the Oregon offense put up 35 points. Justin Herbert threw for 280 yards and four touchdowns. So, while some might think it will be a ground game, the Ducks win over the Huskies shows Oregon won't be afraid to throw the ball.

Adverse weather conditions could lead to mistakes and sloppy play, but Oregon will need to win the turnover battle to have a chance today.

 

MORE DUCKS

Three keys for the Oregon Ducks to win the Pac-12 Championship

How Marcus Arroyo’s name popping up in the coaching carousel affects Oregon

Where Oregon's Bowl path currently stands: Rose Bowl to Alamo Bowl

10 surprising numbers: Oregon vs. Utah in Pac-12 Championship

Mario Cristobal’s ear-catching comments about time of possession

Oregon swagged out in "Nightmare Green" for Pac-12 Championship

Oregon swagged out in "Nightmare Green" for Pac-12 Championship

The No. 13 Oregon Ducks will be donning all "Nightmare Green" on Friday at 5 p.m (PT) in Levi's Stadium against Pac-12 South division winner No. 5 Utah. 

[READ: Justin Herbert's heart is Oregon's X-factor to win Pac-12 Title]

Oregon's "Nike Vapor Fusion" uniform is celebrating its 20th anniversary of their partnership with Nike. The winged helmets are back and the jerseys feature large "Mighty Oregon" font resembling last season's "Oregon Football 2.0" uniform with slight differences. The addition of Nightmare Green is the biggest change while notably no black set was released. 

The battle between Oregon (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) and No. 5 Utah (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) for the Pac-12 Conference crown is bound to be intense with major post-season implications. The Ducks still have a chance at playing in the Rose Bowl as Pac-12 Conference champions (among another option). Standing in their way? The Utes, packed with experienced offensive weapons, one of the toughest defenses in the nation and imminent College Football Playoff dreams.

Utah will be wearing all white.

Numbers to know: Utah leads the FBS in rushing defense (56.3) with opponents averaging just 2.26 yards per carry. The Utes have held 11 of their 12 opponents to under 100 yards rushing and have outscored their opponents 193-61 in the second half this season. 

MORE DUCKS

Three keys for the Oregon Ducks to win the Pac-12 Championship

How Marcus Arroyo’s name popping up in the coaching carousel affects Oregon

Where Oregon's Bowl path currently stands: Rose Bowl to Alamo Bowl

10 surprising numbers: Oregon vs. Utah in Pac-12 Championship

Mario Cristobal’s ear-catching comments about time of possession

Three keys for the Oregon Ducks to win the Pac-12 Championship

Three keys for the Oregon Ducks to win the Pac-12 Championship

Friday’s battle between No. 13 Oregon (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) and No. 5 Utah (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) for the Pac-12 Conference crown is bound to be intense with major post-season implications. 

The Ducks still have a chance at playing in the Rose Bowl as Pac-12 Conference champions (among another option). Standing in their way? The Utes, packed with experienced offensive weapons, one of the toughest defenses in the nation and imminent College Football Playoff dreams.

AN OREGON WIN WOULD…

·      Tie Oregon with Stanford for most Pac-12 Championship Game victories (3).

·      Clinch the program's eighth appearance in the Rose Bowl.

·      Give Oregon seven seasons with 11 or more wins (first time since 2014).


A UTAH WIN WOULD…

·      Be Utah’s first conference championship.

·      Extend its winning streak to nine games, their longest winning streak since 2008 when Utah went undefeated (13-0).

·      Keep its college football playoff hopes alive.

THREE KEYS TO AN OREGON VICTORY

Oregon can hang with anyone when they put it all together but how can they defeat a Utes team looking for a statement win to display to the College Football Playoff rankings committee?

1. Shake up Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley

Dual-threat quarterback Tyler Huntley is dangerous and experienced. The senior is crazy efficient (has completed 75.5% of his passes, which is second behind LSU’s Joe Burrow) averaging 11.1 passing yards per completion, a Pac-12 best and third in the FBS. 

Huntley and Burrow are the only two quarterbacks who have thrown under 70 percent in two or less games. They are also the only quarterbacks that have thrown for 80 percent or higher in four games this season.

The Heisman-Trophy candidate also has 74 carries for 255 yards and five rushing touchdowns.

“Huntley runs that offense like he’s been there for four years because he has been. We’re looking forward to playing against them,” senior linebacker Troy Dye said.
Oregon must disrupt Huntley and the ball-controlling Utes. The Duck defense has been mostly dependable this season, allowing 10 points or fewer in seven of 10 games. The Ducks have recorded a conference-best 35 sacks and will need to continue to play to that strength.

Look for starting defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux to have a major impact. The freshman has heated up in the last four games, totaling eight tackles for loss and four sacks. Coming off a two tackles for loss, one sack performance, Thibodeaux matched a program freshman record with 6.5 sacks on the season, tying Troy Dye’s 2016 total. Entering this season, Thibodeaux’s goal was 10 sacks: an accomplishment still in reach.

2. Win the turnover battle

The rainy, windy conditions in a clash between the most physical teams in the conference could lead to some mistakes and sloppy play. Oregon must be on the winning end of the turnover battle to contend against Utah. The Ducks practiced with a wet ball this week and aren’t overly concerned with “mother nature”. Some numbers to consider:

  • Keep Utah’s defense out of the end zone- The Utes defense has five touchdowns this season, ranking second in the FBS.
  • Oregon ranks first (17) and Utah (13) ranks second in interceptions.
  • Utah is 10th in FBS in turnover margin (0.83).
  • Oregon has scored 113 points off turnovers compared to opponents' 27 points off turnovers.
  • This season against Pac-12 teams, Oregon is undefeated when winning the turnover battle (4-0).

3. Passing game success

Utah is known for its defense, which is giving up a conference-best 11.3 points (third in the nation) and 56.3 yards rushing (first in the nation) on average. Opponents haven’t found an answer to the Utes rushing defense that is allowing an average of 2.26 yards per carry. The Utes have held 11 of their 12 opponents to under 100 yards rushing.

So likely, the Ducks will have to get it done through the passing game.

This is considerable reason for concern regarding Oregon’s offense, which has struggled in the last two games. After quarterback Jusin Herbert threw two interceptions against Arizona State, the Ducks totaled their lowest yardage of the season against Oregon State. Oregon’s receivers have lacked separation and Herbert has had some errant throws.

[READ: Justin Herbert's heart is Oregon's X-factor to win Pac-12 Title]

The Ducks will need junior wide receiver Johnny Johnson III to maintain his dependability in his strong season finish. In the last three games, he has 18 catches for 335 yards and four touchdowns. 34 of the junior’s 49 receptions have gone for first downs and he has three-straight games with a touchdown catch.

How and where to watch

Time: Friday, Dec. 6, 5:14 p.m. (PT)

Where: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California

TV: ABC

Radio: KUGN-AM (590), KUJZ-FM (95.3), KZEL-FM (96.1)