Advertisement

Ducks Wire Roundtable: Predictions, opinions for No. 8 Oregon vs. No. 13 Utah

Once again, we are being gifted with an elite matchup between two teams in the top 25 that happen to have a great history against each other. While the No. 8 Oregon Ducks and No. 13 Utah Utes may not have a rivalry that goes back decades into the past, the meetings that they’ve had over the past 10 years have been impactful, to say the least.

There’s a good bet that this game on Saturday down in Salt Lake City is going to be highly impactful as well, with the winner taking a seat on the inside track to get to the Pac-12 Championship Game, and quite possibly to end up in the College Football Playoff as well.

It’s going to be physical, it’s going to be cold, and it’s going to be fun to watch.

To preview the action, Ducks Wire writers Zachary Neel, Don Smalley, and Miles Dwyer made predictions and offered opinions on what we might see.

Here is your eighth regular-season Ducks Wire roundtable of the 2023 season. Enjoy.

Putting a Bow on Washington State

Photo Courtesy of Ethan Landa)

Question: Putting a bow on the Washington State win, what do you feel was your biggest takeaway from the 38-24 victory?

Zachary Neel (@ZacharyCNeel):

I think I was most impressed with the way that Oregon was able to adjust in the second half and find a way to really hurt the Cougars. The Ducks turned to the rushing attack, knowing that Washington State didn’t have an answer for Bucky Irving and Jordan James, and it worked to perfection.

Don Smalley (@Donald_Smalley): 

That this team can bounce back after what had to be a very tough defeat in Seattle. They were able to put their head down, do the work, make the necessary adjustments, implement those on the field, and come out with a win.

Miles Dwyer (@DwyerMiles15):

I sat with this one for a long time, because this game was kind of weird. The Ducks definitely didn’t dominate the Cougars, but after they took the lead in the second quarter, the game’s outcome never felt in doubt. I think my biggest takeaway though has to be Oregon’s ability as a team to pick up slack for each other. The Ducks were struggling to pass the ball, but then Bucky Irving and Jordan James took off. The defensive line was struggling to get to the QB, but the rest of the defense remained solid, and eventually, the D-line started to create pressure.

Camden Lewis

Photo Courtesy of Ethan Landa

Question: We need to talk about Camden Lewis. He has now missed 3 of his last 5 field goals. If you’re Lanning, a coach who likes to go for it on 4th down a lot, how do you balance trying to build confidence for Camden with easier kicks and also staying true to your aggressive nature?

Zachary Neel (@ZacharyCNeel):

I asked Lanning this question earlier in the week, and his answer is exactly what you would have expected: “We will do whatever is best for us in that situation.” In the end, I don’t think the Ducks will change anything schematically. They will still go for it on 4th down when the situation presents itself, and they will still trust Camden Lewis when they need to.

Don Smalley (@Donald_Smalley): 

I think you need to be smart about the situation. Lewis is a senior and he’s been in slumps before and he’ll bring himself out of it. I’d bet the house he kicks a game-winning FG this year and wouldn’t be a great story if it happens vs Washington to win the Pac-12 title game? Lanning should go to Lewis as much as possible. He’s still a really good kicker.

Miles Dwyer (@DwyerMiles15):

If Lanning is ever in a situation where he thinks he should go for it on fourth, he’ll never choose to send Camden out there just for the purpose of building his confidence. So, that means Camden’s confidence has to be rebuilt in other ways. A slump is one of the hardest things to fix in sports, because there is no perfect prescription. The best thing I think the fans and the rest of the team can do is remain resolute in their trust in Lewis, and he’ll get his game back soon.

Washington's Struggles

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Question: Washington struggled against Arizona State last week in a 15-7 win. What do you think we ultimately learned from their performance?

Zachary Neel (@ZacharyCNeel):

I think it gave us an opportunity to collectively get a level head when it comes to analyzing Washington. They aren’t, in fact, the 2019 LSU Tigers. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t still a really good team capable of making the College Football Playoff. I’m not overreacting to the close win, but I’m also not ignoring it.

Don Smalley (@Donald_Smalley): 

That they can still find a way to win even with a sub-par performance. They were obviously still celebrating the win over the Ducks and overlooked the Devils. That’s natural, but it nearly cost them.

Miles Dwyer (@DwyerMiles15):

I don’t know that we learned a ton. Every team has bad games, and it’s not uncommon for good teams like Washington to have a blip like this against a bad team. We did learn that the Huskies’ offense is fallible, but it’s hard to figure out what the key to turning their offense off is. My best guess is forcing Michael Penix to throw interceptions. Penix threw two picks against ASU, and ended up struggling in other parts of his game. We also saw a little bit of this when Oregon played Washington. After Penix’s INT to Jahlil Florence, he seemed to lose some confidence and his level of play suffered to start the second half— although he started to play much better towards the end of the game.

Two-Way Dreams

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Question: Utah is a very solid team, and they’ve been made better by Sione Vaki playing RB as well as safety. The question begs to be asked, which player on Oregon’s defense would you most want to see play offense as well?

Zachary Neel (@ZacharyCNeel):

I think if you could line up Bryce Boettcher in a Taysom Hill-type role, that would be fun. I also would love to see Jestin Jacobs getting the ball in that 14-F formation for the Ducks, letting him loose on the goal line.

Don Smalley (@Donald_Smalley): 

Matayo Uiagalelei at tight end or Brandon Dorlus as a goal-line fullback.

Miles Dwyer (@DwyerMiles15):

I think there are a couple of good options here. Tysheem Johnson at running back would be fun and I even think Khyree Jackson could be a good receiver. But, I think what I’d most like to see is Jestin Jacobs at tight end. Jacobs has a great combo of speed and strength, and with his size at 6’4” and 245 lbs., I think he has all the tools to make big catches from the TE spot. 

Fill In The Blanks

(Photo Courtesy of Ethan Landa)

Question: Fill in the blanks: Oregon wins this game because they successfully did BLANK? Utah wins this game because they successfully did BLANK?

Zachary Neel (@ZacharyCNeel):

Oregon wins if they successfully build an early lead and force Utah to try and pass the ball in order to come back, which is something they’re not as comfortable doing. Utah wins if they can muck up the trenches and out-physical Oregon at the point of attack.

Don Smalley (@Donald_Smalley): 

Oregon wins because they ran the ball and won the time of possession and/or stopped Utah’s running back and made Barnes beat them by throwing the ball.

Miles Dwyer (@DwyerMiles15):

Oregon will win this game because they limit mistakes on offense. Utah will win this game because they successfully create chaos for the Ducks.

I strongly believe Oregon’s offense can overpower Utah and push the Ducks to a win, but only if the Oregon offense plays a complete game. Utah is a team that will make sure to punish the Ducks for penalties, bad reads, or a slow offensive start like they had a week ago against Washington State. If Oregon can jump out strong and play streamlined on offense, I see the game going well for the Ducks.

Utah has plenty of things at its disposal to create a chaotic atmosphere for Oregon. For one, the Utes have one of the best home-field advantages in college football in Rice-Eccles stadium, where the Ducks haven’t won since 2016 — thanks to Darren Carrington. They also have Sione Vaki, a safety who has become a force as a running back for the Utes this season. Vaki helped create a lot of chaos against USC by making several big plays on wheel routes out of the backfield. Vaki will need to be a focus for the Ducks defense on Saturday because he has the potential to break the game open.

Bucky or Troy

(Photo Courtesy of Ethan Landa)

Question: Who has the better game, Bucky Irving or Troy Franklin?

Zachary Neel (@ZacharyCNeel):

You could easily argue either side here, but I think ultimately it will be Troy Franklin and the deep ball that ends up being more important for the Ducks. Utah is not good at limiting explosion plays, so that will be something that Oregon needs to try and exploit early and often.

Don Smalley (@Donald_Smalley): 

If Oregon wins, it’ll be because Irving had a good day rushing the ball. But if I had to pick, Franklin will have the better day.

Miles Dwyer (@DwyerMiles15):

Troy Franklin for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason is Utah will likely be the most physical defense along the line of scrimmage that the Ducks will have faced this year, and I can see Oregon’s running game suffering because of it. Another reason is that the Ducks went away from Troy Franklin in the second half against Washington State. I don’t want to say that he’s due, but I do think Franklin will be eager to ramp up his production against Utah, and Bo Nix will be eager to get him the ball.

Gambling Corner

Question: Gambling Corner. You know the drill. $100 to spend on the spread (Oregon -6.5), the Moneyline (Oregon -250, Utah+200) or the Over/Under (49). Where are you allocating your capital?

Zachary Neel (@ZacharyCNeel):

I think the Ducks win and cover, but I can’t say I’m too confident about it. Ultimately, I’m going to put $70 on the Oregon ML for a smaller return, and the other $30 on the under.

Don Smalley (@Donald_Smalley): 

I’ll put $30 on Utah covering the 6.5 and the rest on the under 49.

Miles Dwyer (@DwyerMiles15):

If Oregon wins this game — which I think they will — I think it will because their offense is firing on all cylinders, so I see the Ducks winning by more than a TD. I’ll go with $100 on Oregon to cover.

Final Score Prediction

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Question: Final Score Prediction. Who wins this game?

Zachary Neel (@ZacharyCNeel):

Give me Oregon 27, Utah 17.

Don Smalley (@Donald_Smalley): 

Ducks 27, Utes 17.

Miles Dwyer (@DwyerMiles15):

35-27 Oregon.

Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire