3 keys to victory for No. 3 Oregon Ducks against No. 23 Utah

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The Oregon Ducks are 9-1 and right in the thick of the CFP race heading into what should be an epic game on Saturday afternoon against the Utah Utes.

Utah’s season started off with losses to BYU and San Diego State, followed by the surprise transfer of their quarterback Charlie Brewer. But they have rebounded in a major way and are now 7-3 and ranked No. 23 in the country after destroying UCLA and Stanford in back-to-back weeks.

That makes this showdown between the top two teams in the Pac-12 a particularly noteworthy one, as a loss for Oregon ends their CFP bid, while a win for Utah gives them a real chance at winning the Pac-12 title and moving into the top-15 teams in the country.

Here are three keys for the Ducks to secure a win on Saturday:

Protect Anthony Brown

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Utah leads the conference, by a wide margin, in sacks – a huge part of their success so far this year. Oregon’s offensive line has been shaky at times, but they’ll need to have one of their best games of the season if they want to keep Brown on his feet and delivering the ball Saturday afternoon.

Fortunately, Oregon relies a lot on short, quick passes, but not having enough time to occasionally air one out could be a problem for this squad.

Stuff the Run

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The Utes are one of the most efficient rushing teams in the conference.

Led by star Tavion Thomas, who has 742 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns, as well as TJ Pledger (502 and five) the Utes are going to pound it on the ground early and often.

The Ducks are a great pass rushing team but haven’t always had success stopping the run. That will be a crucial element to Saturday’s game – if Oregon’s defense is unable to get off the field due to Utah’s ground attack they run the risk of falling behind early and having to play more aggressively, which isn’t Anthony Brown’s strength.

Win the Turnover Battle

Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising has thrown 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions since taking over as the starter for the Utes.

Anthony Brown’s ratio is a respectable 12:4 as well, so this game may just come down to who can protect the football better.

Both defenses are solid at forcing turnovers, and both offenses have generally avoided coughing it up, so how this battle plays out will go a long way in determining the final score – and Oregon’s CFP dreams.

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