For the first time in a long time, the Pac-12 Championship game has national implications.
Utah has a slim chance to make the College Football Playoff if it can beat Oregon and a couple other teams lose. The Utes opened as -6.5 point favorites for the game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
At one point, Oregon had the better odds to make the playoff, but then it fell apart and lost to Arizona State. Utah’s lone loss came against USC and it’s the main thing holding it back from being a favorite for the CFP.
Utah Won Last They Met
These teams have played each other the last six seasons so they’re plenty familiar. Utah won 32-25 last year, though it came at home and it scored the final 10 points of the game in the last seven minutes.
It was an even matchup outside of Utah’s rushing attack doing what it wanted en route to 232 yards and 4.9 yards per carry, 100 more yards than Oregon. That could again be the decider in this matchup because while Oregon has a good rush defense, Utah’s is better.
Utes Have Dominant Defense
The Utes have dominated the Pac-12 with their defense. They allowed more than 15 points just once in their last eight games. They gave up a ridiculous 2.3 yards per carry and 56.3 rushing yards per contest. That defensive front could be Oregon’s biggest issue.
The Ducks have a good offense, but they’ve lacked consistency, which is why they lost to ASU and barely beat Oregon State last week.
Quarterback Justin Herbert has mostly elite numbers and is headed to the NFL, yet his 8.2 yards per attempt is mediocre despite having 31 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
Everything could be on him to perform if CJ Verdell and Travis Dye can’t find room on the ground. They’re averaging 4.9 yards per carry as a team, but they’ve had issues throughout the season and Utah may have the best rush defense in the country.
Herbert doesn’t have tight end Jacob Breeland, but he’s spread the ball around to Johnny Johnson, Jaylon Redd and Juwan Johnson over the last month.
Utah’s offense has been a bit more consistent, while Oregon’s defense has been inconsistent, allowing points to the likes of ASU and both Washington schools.
Utah the More Consistent Team
The Utes maybe aren’t as flashy, but Tyler Huntley gets the job done, completing 75.5% of his passes for 11.1 yards per attempt, 16 touchdowns and two picks.
However, they remain a run-first offense with Zack Moss averaging 6.2 yards per carry for 1,246 yards and 15 touchdowns, while Huntley adds 255 yards and five touchdowns.
Oregon maybe hasn’t been as dominant as Utah, but these are by far the two best teams in the conference and more than six points is a lot on a neutral field. Utah has the advantage, but is it a touchdown advantage?
Oregon is 1-4 ATS in its last five neutral-site games, but 5-1 ATS in its last six following an ATS loss.
Utah doesn’t have any relevant trends, nor do these teams against each other, though the over is 6-1 in the last seven meetings between them.
Our Pick – Side and Total
This is a great matchup and a great way to kick off Championship Weekend. With so much focus on who will win and cover, perhaps the best proposition for this game, the total, is being overlooked.
First, the side……
Our model, using data from the entire season, has Utah winning this game by a score of 19-15. A 4 point margin, which would obviously suggest taking +6.5 or even +7 is the way to go.
However, when we run this game thru our model using first the last 7 games only and then the last 4 games only, we get a much different outcome.
Using the last 7 games, the predicted score is Utah 26 Oregon 13. Using the last 4 games, the predicted score is Utah 22 Oregon 9.
So, the model likes Oregon when taking into account their entire body of work on the season, but favors the Utes when focusing on more recent results.
You’ll notice a common denominator in all three score predictions. Every single one of them has this game going UNDER the total of 48 by a considerable margin.
The early sharp bettors agree as the total opened as high as 51, so we’ve already lost some value as of this writing early Tuesday.
These two teams rank in the top 10 defensively using yards per point to rank and are both top 20 offensively using the same yards per point ranking.
Oregon has given up 30+ points 3 times over the last 6 games while the Utes gave up 30 just once, in their lone loss this season, to USC back in September.
This is Utah’s year. We think they are the better team here on both sides of the ball and ultimately, win the title and cover the number here, while also staying under the posted total.
Utah -6 and UNDER 48