Monday, November 29, 2021

To catch up: Utah and Oregon chase Pac-12 division titles

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham played it well. He mentioned how it was just another game and how the Utes were treating it exactly the same.

This is a tough sell.

In fact, Saturday night’s clash between No. 24 Utah and fourth-placed Oregon in Salt Lake City is riding high.

Conference-wise, both the Ducks (9-1, 6-1) and the Utes (7-3, 6-1) have a shot at wrapping up their side of the Pac-12 divisions as they prepare to meet again. In the league title match on December 3.

Big picture-wise, a win keeps the Ducks looking for a spot in the college football playoffs. They are sitting at number 3 following the latest revelations from the CFP rankings.

According to the schedule, the Utes’ victory would make Whittingham (141–69) the most winning coach in team history. He would overtake Ike Armstrong (1925-49 to 141-55-15).

“We treat them all equally,” Whittingham said of his team’s play-by-play mentality. “That’s how you have to do it in the Pac-12 because if you don’t, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, you’ll be beat if you’re not ready to go. We do it every single week.” I see it that way.”

Whittingham later added: “This will clearly, on paper, be our biggest test of the year.”

The Ducks are vying to make a third-straight trip to the conference championship game. They would wrap up the north with a victory over Utah or the state of Arizona in the state of Oregon. Utes would claim the south with a win over the Sun Devils or a victory over the Beavers.

A rematch between the two seems almost inevitable, which could mean they don’t show all their cards?

“Coaches don’t think that way, at least we don’t,” Whittingham said. “We have work to do. We haven’t done anything yet that’s based on stone. We still have the football we need to play and the games we need to win.”

The same goes for the Ducks, who hold a 23-10 lead in the all-time series against Utah.

“You’re playing against a great football team that’s been really good for a long time,” said Oregon coach Mario Cristobal. “It will be a great challenge for us – a great opportunity.”

November rule

Cristobal said there is something special about football at this time of year. The Ducks are 11-3 in November under Cristobal.

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“November can be really special as they realize they are in the fourth quarter of the season,” Cristobal said. “I think you’ll see everyone’s best, their best competitive side, their most competitive DNA in November.”

no replica

Whittingham said in practice there’s no real way to replicate the kind of havoc that Oregon defensive end Kevon Thibodaux creates. Thibodaux was the Pac-12 defensive player and defensive lineman of the week after a two-sack performance in Oregon’s 38-24 win over Washington State last week.

“To replicate that in practice… it’s impossible,” Whittingham said. “If we had that man, that man would lead the country in sacks. We don’t have that man right now.”

fab frosho

Oregon running back Byron Cardwell was named the Pac-12’s freshman of the week after running for 98 yards and two TDs against Washington State. He scored 27 and 22 yards in the fourth quarter.

“He is growing fast. We always had confidence in him that he would,” Cristóbal said. “He puts in a lot of time, he is very serious about the game, he is very serious about his development and he Very serious about the success of his peers. So, overall, the time invested, the extra time, is really paying off for that and we’ll need that to keep growing at that level. ,

Don’t forget about Travis Dye, who is 92 yards away from reaching 1,000 in a season for the first time in his career.

Not-Us-Special Teams

Utes allowed two touchdowns on kick return. He also had two punts blocked, a result that included a score last weekend in Arizona as the Utes hung on for a 38-29 win.

“You’d think we’d have sorted it out by now, but obviously we haven’t,” Whittingham said. “I have to train it better and we have to find a way to protect our punter.”

loud and clear

Rice-Eccles Stadium’s capacity was increased from 45,807 to 51,444 with the expansion of the Ken Garoff Red Zone. Utah set a new attendance record at the stadium on October 30 against UCLA with 51,922 fans. They average 51,660 fans.

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NWN Sportswriter Anne M. Peterson contributed to this report.

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