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Oregon State Beavers vs. Utah Utes Preview and Prediction

Author:
Travis Wilson

Travis Wilson

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Losing to USC is not the end of the world for Utah. The Utes still control their own destiny and retain a one game lead in the Pac-12 South after last week's 42-24 loss to the Trojans. Still, Kyle Whittingham's team cannot afford to absorb more losses and still keep alive hopes for winning the division and advancing to the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Playing Oregon State offers the Utes a perfect chance to regain positive momentum. The Beavers are the only Pac-12 team without a victory in conference play at this point in the season. Oregon State has struggled on both sides of the ball and has lost 16 of its last 18 games against Pac-12 opponents.

The Beavers lead the all-time series 11-7-1, but the teams have split the last six games dating back to 2007. Utah has won three of the last four games against Oregon State in Salt Lake City.

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Oregon State at Utah

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: Pac-12 Networks

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Spread: Utah -24

Three Things to Watch

1. Pick Lake City

Oregon State ranks last in the Pac-12 in pass offense, generating just 153.1 yards per game. Facing an opportunistic Utah secondary isn't going to make things any easier through the air. Utah leads the Pac-12 with 13 interceptions. The Utes also rank third in pass defense efficiency (119.1). Individually, Utah safety Marcus Williams leads the league with four interceptions, cornerback Dominique Hatfield is second with three picks, and nickelback Justin Thomas is tied for sixth among Pac-12 players with two interceptions.

2. Owning the trenches

Pita Taumoepenu is quietly putting together a dominant season in the trenches for Utah. Through seven games, Taumoepenu leads the Pac-12 with six sacks and 0.86 sacks per game. Sacks account for 75 percent of his total tackles. The junior isn't the only defensive lineman making life tough on opponents. Kylie Fitts ranks 10th in the league with 3.5 sacks and leads Utah with four pass breakups. Fitts, fellow defensive end Jason Fanaika and linebacker Gionni Paul are co-leaders on the team with two forced fumbles apiece.

3. Filling a void

Oregon State suffered a blow to its offensive line when junior left tackle Sean Harlow suffered a season ending ankle injury against Colorado. Harlow has started in 28 games since his freshman season for the Beavers. He was one of five players who returned with starting experience on the offensive line this season. Their presence has helped freshman quarterback Seth Collins tally 536 yards and five touchdowns on 99 carries to rank eighth in the Pac-12 in rushing. Sophomore Will Barton will step into Harlow's place this week after replacing him against the Buffaloes.

Final Analysis

Each of the last two seasons, Utah and Oregon State have battled to overtime — with the visiting team coming out on top in each game. It's safe to say this scenario isn't happening for a third straight year. The Utes have one of the best defenses in the Pac-12 and a powerful running back in Devontae Booker, while the Beavers have the league's least productive offense and a porous rush defense. Utah will get a Halloween night treat in the form of a bounce back victory.

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Prediction: Utah 38, Oregon State 10

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.