Home, sweet home?
If history repeats itself, that won’t be the case for the University of Utah football team this Saturday. OregonLive.com pointed out that the Utes haven’t beaten Oregon at Rice-Eccles Stadium since they joined the Pac-12 seven years ago.
In 2016, Oregon won on the road 30-28 thanks to a 17-yard TD pass from Justin Herbert to Darren Carrington with two seconds remaining. That came two years after Marcus Mariota tossed three TD passes in a 51-27 victory for the Ducks in SLC.
An Urban Meyer-coached Utah team did beat Oregon at RES, 17-13, led by Alex Smith’s 340 yards and two touchdowns.
Here’s OregonLlive.com’s look at this matchup:’
The Ducks have lost their last two road games. They looked particularly bad two weeks ago in the 44-15 lambasting they took at Arizona.
Utah is missing starting quarterback Tyler Huntley, out for the season with what is said to be a broken collarbone. Backup Jason Shelley, the redshirt freshman who will start Saturday, is a mystery man, but good enough to have beaten out star recruit Jack Tuttle for Utah's No. 2 job.
Shelley has plenty of complementary pieces around him. Running back Zack Moss is the Pac-12's third-leading rusher, averaging 121.3 yards per game. Utah has the conference's best run defense and is No. 2 in the Pac-12 in total defense and pass efficiency defense.
Nothing about playing Utah looks easy, even without Huntley.
Portland Tribune columnist Jason Vondersmith calls this “another opportunity knocking” for the Ducks because of Utah QB Tyler Huntley’s season-ending collar-bone injury.
Before the Huntley injury, it was a no-brainer pick for me — Utah to win. Now? I dunno. If the Ducks can get some pressure on Jason Shelley and defend Utah's capable receivers and tight ends, they have a chance at an upset. The Utes have to support Shelley and run the ball effectively.
Ultimately, the writer believes the Utes defense and running attack with Zack Moss will be the difference.
“With the Huntley injury, I see it being a tight game,” he wrote. “The Utes play better defense and have the better running back, and they'll have some motivation to play well without their quarterback, in front of their crowd and to beat the Ducks again.”
His pick: Utah 34, Oregon 31.
Oregon coach Mario Cristobal was effusive in his praise for the Utes ahead of this important Pac-12 showdown.
Regarding the Ute defense: "They don’t miss tackles. These guys play with balance. There’s no hesitation in their game. They take the air out of your offensive plays. They’re complete linebackers.”6 comments on this story
On Moss: "Bigtime guy, he’s an NFL guy. I know his well, he’s from my neck of the woods. I watched him play high school football. I know he’s a downhill guy but he’ll put a foot in the ground, make you miss and bounce that thing and outrun the defense."
And his thoughts on Utah’s new QB: "We’ve seen (Shelly) play before. This is a very talented guy. He does it both with his arm and his feet. ... With Utah, it starts and ends with their physicality on both sides of the ball."