10 quick thoughts on Oregon’s 37-15 Pac-12 Championship win over Utah.
Pac-12 Championship: Oregon 37, Utah 15
10. There was a moment. Oregon got up big early, but Utah started to click and the momentum seemed to turn as it was 23-15 going into the fourth quarter. Just when it looked like it might be a repeat of Oregon’s Auburn loss to start the season, the O line took over, the defense clamped down, and that was it.
9. Oregon safety Brady Breeze just had himself a game. The entire Duck defense did a phenomenal job, especially in the first half, and finished with six sacks and nine tackles for loss overall, but it was Breeze who seemed to set the tone with big hits, big stops, and a team-high nine tackles with a. broken up pass. He and fellow defensive back Troy Dye were fantastic.
8. Justin Herbert was just okay. The line gave him time to work, but he only completed 14-of-26 passes for 193 yards and a score. He didn’t take any chances – mostly because he didn’t need to with the way everything else was working – and he didn’t have to force anything like Tyler Huntley did.
The Utah QB had to press as the game went on, and he kept firing up moon shots in the hopes of hitting on the big play. That didn’t happen, but he had an okay night completing 17-of-29 passes for 193 yards and two scores with two picks. He had only thrown two interceptions on the year before this.
7. Utah hadn’t allowed more than 92 rushing yards to anyone but Arizona State, even then it gave up just 111 yards. There wasn’t any real pressure behind the line, and it couldn’t seem to get off the field on the way to a 20-0 halftime deficit. The amazing defensive front only gave up one touchdown on the ground in the last eight games, and then …
6. The Oregon offensive line seemed to take this game personally. From the very first drive, the veteran Duck front five slammed the Utes in the mouth, and broke it all wide open late. Utah allowed just 675 rushing yards all season, and it was hit for 208 yards and three touchdowns by CJ Verdell, and 239 rushing yards overall by the Oregon offense.
5. This is what we thought we were getting all year with Oregon. It’s a more talented team than Utah, there’s more pro skill, it has an NFL franchise quarterback, and it has the speed, athleticism, and lines hang with anyone in the country.
The team flipped the switch after a few lackluster weeks, and that’s going to be the nitpicky topic going forward – can the ultra-talented Ducks bring it week-in-and-week-out? For now, whatever … they’re Pac-12 champs and off to the Rose Bowl.
4. No more talking about the “eye test.” The CFP committee loved Alabama for weeks because of how great the team was playing offensively – but there weren’t any wins over CFP ranked teams. Utah looked amazing, but it didn’t have any wins over CFP ranked teams, either. Sometimes, it’s easy to look great when an amazing team is playing against mediocre opponents, but Utah really is that good, which is why …
3. Talk about your punches in the gut. Utah went into this with the hopes of being in the College Football Playoff discussion, and potentially being mad that it wasn’t in it – the Rose Bowl was supposed to be a nice consolation prize. And now it’s off to the Alamo Bowl to face some decent Big 12 team. It’s a good bowl, but … ouch.
2. This isn’t going to slow down. Oregon has a strong team returning once it gets the quarterback situation in place. The recruiting classes under Mario Cristobal over the last two years have been fantastic – the talent level is fantastic. This championship, combined with Chris Petersen stepping down at Washington, has made this a very, very good week for Oregon football. And in the end …
1. The main storyline might be how the Pac-12 is out of the College Football Playoff, but it should be about the ascension of Oregon to the top of the Pac-12 mountain – at least, that should be a part of the storyline.
It would’ve been nice if the Ducks had beaten Arizona State or Auburn, and it would’ve been great if they had been a bit more consistent, but they just dominated the fifth-best team in the country according to the College Football Playoff committee and they’re off to the Rose Bowl. It might not be the CFP, but for all of those who questioned Cristobal’s ability to take this Oregon team to the top, he just got it to Pasadena.