A big measuring stick game for the Utes Thursday night here in Oregon. We are always talking about who Utah compares best with in the Pac 12 Conference. They are in the same overall league yet as the upper echelon programs like: Oregon, Stanford, USC or UCLA, but they appear to be gaining ground. Utah is comparable to programs like Arizona, Arizona State, Washington and tonight’s opponent Oregon State. For Utah to continue to progress and make in-roads in the Pac 12, beating a team like Oregon State is a must.
Mike Riley’s team is solid but not quite spectacular. An excellent Quarterback, Sean Mannion, and some nice complimentary pieces around him. A good but not great defense, which is relying more on scheme than athletes to get it done this season.
Utah has only won once in Corvallis over the years, they are 1-5-1 all time. Thursday night marks the first time these teams have met when the Utes have been ranked in the Top 25.
Here are my Three Keys to Utah winning back to back road games for the first time as members of the Pac 12 Conference…
1. Feed the Beast-Devontae Booker is Utah’s best offensive football player, period! The Utah Offensive Line appears to be a better run blocking unit right now. Booker ranks 5th in the Pac 12 in rushing and is coming off back to back 100 yard rushing games. He is the Quarterbacks’ best friend. 30+ carries for Booker bodes well for Utah.
2. Nate must be Great-Last year the Utah defense didn’t come close to Sean Mannion. As a result he passed for 443 yards and 5 TD’s. This year the Utah Front Four must find a way to get pressure on Mannion. That unit, which leads the NCAA in sacks, with 28, and Orchard who’s 2nd in sacks with 8.5 must find a way to get past the maximum protection of the Beavers and sack Mannion. If not it could be another long night.
3. Catch the Damn Ball-Utah has a very talented WR Corps. However, they’ve had a tendency to drop the football this season. Seven drops in Pasadena nearly cost Utah that big win. Don’t be surprised if there are a few new faces on the field tonight in the Utah WR group, perhaps to send a message.
I think we’ll see a tight game tonight at Reser Stadium. Special Teams will play a big role in field position tonight. Hackett and Clay potentially big for the Utes.
Utah 27 Oregon St. 24
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