Will Utah finally reach a Rose Bowl for the first time in school history? Or does Oregon get revenge and win a third consecutive Pac-12 title?
Friday's Pac-12 Championship Game will be the second time in three seasons that the Ducks and the Utes are battling to decide the Pac-12 champion. Oregon prevailed in the first title game bout in 2019, dominating Utah in a 37-15 victory that ended a potential College Football Playoff bid for the Utes.
Utah similarly crushed the Ducks' playoff hopes with a 38-7 beatdown two weeks ago. The Utes imposed their will along the line of scrimmage. They held Oregon to 63 rushing yards and racked up 208 rushing yards against the Ducks — a big chunk of the 386 total yards accumulated over just eight drives. Over its last six games, Utah has averaged 218.2 rushing yards per game, while holding opponents to just 119.5 yards on the ground.
Oregon bounced back with a 38-29 victory over Oregon State last week. The Ducks allowed just 114 yards in the first half and jumped out to a 24-3 halftime lead. Utah kept the momentum going with a 28-13 win against Colorado. The Utes rushed for 265 yards and held the Buffaloes to 64 rushing yards while not allowing Colorado's offense to score a touchdown.
Oregon leads Utah 23-11 in the all-time series. The Ducks, who are 4-0 all-time in Pac-12 title games, have not lost two straight games to the Utes since 1994.
Pac-12 Championship Game: No. 10 Oregon vs. No. 17 Utah
Kickoff: Friday, Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. ET
Where: Allegiant Stadium (Las Vegas)
Spread: Utah -2.5
When Oregon Has the Ball
Anthony Brown had a nice bounceback game against Oregon State. Brown completed 23 of 28 passes against the Beavers — a career-high 82.1 percent completion rate. He threw for 275 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Brown also ran for 83 yards and another touchdown. However, against Utah the first time around, he completed only 48.6 percent of his passes and mustered eight yards on nine carries.
If Brown performs to his usual capabilities, it will make all the difference against the Utes. He led the Pac-12 in total offense during the regular season, totaling 3,178 yards over 12 games.
Devon Williams and Kris Hutson are capable of making big plays downfield. The duo will need to do it to loosen up defensive pressure on the run game. Williams and Huston combined for 192 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Oregon State on 13 total catches. Huston's 82 receiving yards against the Beavers were a career-best. Meanwhile, Williams had a season-high 110 yards for his first 100-yard game of the season.
Travis Dye and Byron Cardwell both had forgettable performances in the backfield against the Utes two weeks ago. Dye mustered a season-low 29 yards on six carries, and Cardwell managed 35 yards on seven carries. Dye took his frustration out on Oregon State last week, running for 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns to surpass 1,000 rushing yards in a season for the first time in his career. If he can approach 100 yards again on Friday, it will mean good things for the Ducks.
When Utah Has the Ball
Stopping the Utes' running attack is becoming a progressively bigger chore for opponents. Utah has multiple running backs who are threats to rip off game-changing second-level runs at any moment. Oregon won't find it any easier stopping them on Friday.
Tavion Thomas is coming off his fifth 100-yard game of the season after running for 142 yards and a touchdown against Colorado. Thomas totaled 94 yards and three touchdowns against Oregon a week earlier. He needs just 22 yards to become Utah's latest 1,000-yard rusher. TJ Pledger enjoyed his fourth 100-yard game of the year when he tallied 103 yards against the Buffaloes. Pledger averages 7.1 yards per carry, which ranks second in the Pac-12.
Quarterback Cameron Rising is the true catalyst to making the offense hum like a brand new engine. Although Rising has averaged only 178.5 passing yards over his last two games, he also threw three touchdown passes against Colorado. His favorite targets, tight end Brant Kuithe and receiver Britain Covey, both had outstanding games against Oregon last time. The Ducks won't soon forget Covey's 78-yard punt return touchdown on the final play of the first half that broke what remained of their spirits. Kuithe enjoyed his finest game of the season, tallying 118 yards on five catches.
Utah found the perfect blueprint for beating Oregon when the two teams met in the regular season. The Ducks were caught off-guard by how physical and athletic the Utes were in defending the run game. Oregon will be better prepared this time around and isn't likely to get manhandled a second time. Still, Utah is a hungry team that has overcome major off-the-field adversity to reach this point. The Utes will be focused and will find a way to reach the Rose Bowl for the first time.
Prediction: Utah 28, Oregon 24
Podcast: Championship Weekend Preview and Predictions
– Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sports journalist based in Utah. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.