Utah is back in action this Saturday, Oct. 28, against the Oregon Ducks. Both the Utes and the Ducks are looking to avoid a fourth straight conference loss. Something has to give, and here are five numbers to look for during this weekend’s contest.
The game will be played in Eugene, Oregon, at 3:45 p.m. MDT and broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.
The last time the Utes lost three consecutive conference games was in 2013. Hopefully history does not repeat itself as the Utes went 5-7 that year and missed becoming bowl eligible. After last weekend’s game against Arizona State, Utah fell to fifth in the Pac-12 South standings.
If recent history has any bearing, the game should have plenty of action. In Utah’s last four games against Oregon, the two teams have averaged a total of 70 points per game. The lowest total in the four years was last season’s heartbreaker in a 30-28 loss for the Utes. The highest came a year earlier with a 62-20 romping on Oregon’s home field.
Look for plenty of offensive fireworks and maybe a few defensive plays as well. The two teams both rank in the hundreds nationally in turnovers lost. Utah has 15 total turnovers in seven games, while Oregon has 17 in eight games. The team that takes care of the ball on Saturday will certainly have the upper hand. On the other hand, both Oregon and Utah have had success on the defensive side of the ball in forcing turnovers. Utah ranks fifth nationally with 18 forced and Oregon ranks 17th with 15 turnovers forced.
Speaking of being ranked in the hundreds, Tyler Huntley earned that distinction last week. Utah fans were clamoring for their starting quarterback to return from injury, only to find their hopes dashed. Huntley threw four interceptions in his return and ranked 109th out of 117 in qualified quarterbacks for total QBR. It's a far cry from the production Ute fans were accustomed to at the beginning of the season. Call it a bad game, call it rust or call it whatever you like, but if Utah is to be successful, Huntley needs to improve efficiency and production.
If anything, tune in to the game to watch one of the great college running backs play his final season. Royce Freeman is the FBS active career leader in rushing yards with 5,103 total. His best season came as a sophomore when he ran for 1,836 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. Freeman is closing in on college football royalty and should pass a few big names in the next couple of games. Freeman is 287 yards away from being top 10 all-time in rushing yards and will pass Montee Ball, Hershel Walker and LaDainian Tomlinson on his way up the leaderboard. Freeman is also five rushing touchdowns away from being top-10 in rushing touchdowns.
Prediction: Utah breaks the losing streak with a 45-35 victory.
Cameron Wood is a graduate of Weber State University and a teacher and coach at St. Joseph Catholic High School in Ogden, Utah. Email: [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @camwood03.