Both the Utes and Oregon State need momentum to do well in the Pac-12 this season.
"There’s no doubt that early momentum is a good thing,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. “As you reach a new threshold, depending where your team is, these games always loom bigger and bigger.
Oregon State started the season ranked, but after losing to Eastern Washington in week one, this game looks much more winnable for Utah. Both teams have played one Mountain West Conference team and one FCS opponent, making statistical comparisons relevant. The Utes are 2-0, the Beavers 1-1.
Oregon State's offense relies heavily on the pass game. The Beavers' passing offense ranks fourth in the nation behind Texas Tech, Troy and California. They average more than 436 passing yards per game between starting quarterback Sean Mannion and backup Cody Vaz.
Utah, however, has only allowed 225 passing yards per game. The Utes faced a huge defensive challenge in week one when Utah State's Heisman Trophy candidate Chuckie Keeton came to the hill. Although Keeton threw for 314 yards, Utah won the game largely because of defensive halftime adjustments.
The Utes field a much more balanced offense than Oregon State. Travis Wilson averaged nearly 300 yards per game in the Utes' first two contests, and he sat on the bench for a good chunk of the Weber State game. He has a quarterback rating of 202 so far and is completing 66 percent of his passing attempts.
On the other hand, the Beavers have a remarkably bad passing defense, allowing 309 yards per game on average. It ranks 109th in the country and dead last in the Pac-12.
The passing game, on both the offensive and defensive ends, will be a key statistic when Oregon State comes to Salt Lake City on Saturday.
Whitney O'Bannon is a new media sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow on Twitter at @whitney_oban.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company