No. 15 Utah (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) will be favored to snag its second straight Pac-12 victory after smothering Washington State in a 38-13 win two weeks ago. The Utes gained a season-high 29 first downs and totaled 526 yards against the Cougars. Utah also shut out a Washington State offense after halftime that came into the game averaging 52.8 points per game.
Oregon State (2-3, 1-1) dominated UCLA in a 48-31 victory last Saturday to pick up just its second victory in the team's last 20 games against Pac-12 opponents. The Beavers scored their most points in a conference game since running up 49 points against California in 2013. Oregon State racked up 448 total yards and averaged 7.7 yards per play against the Bruins.
Oregon State leads the all-time series 11-9-1, but Utah has had the upper hand since joining the Pac-12. The Utes have won three straight over the Beavers dating back to 2014.
Utah at Oregon State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 12 at 8 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Utah -14.0
When Utah Has the Ball
Defense is always what you think of with the Utes, and this season is no different. Utah ranks in the top 15 among FBS teams in rushing defense (53.8 yards per game), total defense (282.4 ypg), interceptions (7), and first downs allowed (71). This year's version of the Utes are complementing a rugged defense nicely with an efficient ball-control offense.
Tyler Huntley is one reason why the offense is running so smoothly. The senior ranks 6th in the FBS in completion percentage (74.6 percent) and 10th in passing efficiency (179.3). Huntley threw for 334 yards and two touchdowns against Washington State to help offset the absence of Zack Moss in the backfield.
Utah is spreading the ball around in the passing game. Four receivers have 10 or more catches through five games. Bryan Thompson and Jaylen Dixon are leading the way with 11 receptions each. Thompson has emerged as a true deep threat. The sophomore leads the Utes with 310 receiving yards. Thompson's 28.2 yards per catch leads the Pac-12 and ranks second among FBS players.
Moss is still working his way back from a shoulder injury. If he isn't ready to go against Oregon State, expect the Utes to take a running back by committee approach. Devonta'e Henry-Cole has led the way in Moss' absence with 110 yards on 19 carries over the last two games. Devin Brumfield has also been effective with 87 yards on 16 carries over that stretch.
When Oregon State Has the Ball
Can the Beavers run the ball effectively against Utah? That's a question for Oregon State which has no easy answer available.
The Beavers certainly have a capable running back in Artavis Pierce. The senior has put together back-to-back 100-yard rushing games. Pierce ranks second in the Pac-12 in total rushing yardage with 482 yards and is averaging 7.5 yards per carry. Against UCLA, Pierce tallied 119 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Jermar Jefferson is also a talented back but has been limited while he heals from injuries.
On the other hand, Oregon State hasn't yet faced a run defense as stifling as what Utah brings to the field. The Utes have held all five of their opponents to date this season under 100 rushing yards. Those opponents are rushing for just 2.5 yards per carry.
The Beavers' scant upset hopes may ride on Jake Luton's arm. Luton was up to the task against UCLA, throwing for 285 yards and five touchdowns. His top target, Isaiah Hodgins, finished with 123 yards and three touchdowns on 10 catches. Luton, like Huntley for Utah, has been good at taking care of the ball. He has thrown 161 passes without an interception – leading all FBS quarterbacks.
Oregon State appears to be making some serious strides after hitting rock bottom under Gary Andersen only a couple of seasons ago. The Beavers now have an offense capable of keeping them in games. Still, Utah is one opponent where that scenario isn't likely to unfold. The Utes boast one of the nation's best all-around defenses. They also have an offense that's adept at controlling possession. Oregon State still has many more steps to take before it can hang with a team like Utah for four quarters.
Prediction: Utah 35, Oregon State 17
— 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.