On Friday Night, a big-time Pac-12 battle between two Top-25 teams will occur as the #19 Oregon State Beavers (3-1) will take on the #10 Utah Utes (4-0).
After starting their decision with decisive victories over San Jose State, UC Davis, and San Diego State, the Oregon State Beavers would lose to the Washington State Cougars 38-35.
Meanwhile, the Utah Utes come into this contest with wins over the Florida Gators, Baylor Bears, Weber State Wildcats, and a hard-fought win in conference play over the UCLA Bruins.
Despite the momentum that Utah has coming into the game, I firmly believe Oregon State will end Utah’s undefeated streak on Friday. Here are three reasons why I feel this will occur.
1. Utah’s injuries will finally catch up with them.
The most impressive thing about the Utes’ undefeated record is that they have been able to do so despite dealing with an insane amount of injuries.
Utah has gone undefeated despite missing their all-conference senior QB Cam Rising.
The Utah Utes have been winning with a dual-QB combo of redshirt freshman Nate Johnson and junior Bryson Barnes.
Utah is missing all-conference TE Brant Kuithe. Both Rising and Kuithe are recovering from knee injuries.
Another loss for Utah is RB Micah Bernard. He suffered an injury after only seven rushing attempts and is out for the season. The Utes also miss their center and two key players on the defensive line. Several players have also missed time due to injury this season.
It’s no secret that the Utah defense had to do a lot of the heavy lifting last week. It is a lot to ask of the Utah defense to play as well as they did last week against this Beavers offense. The Utes have not faced an offense as balanced as Oregon State’s. After all, Oregon State has averaged 234 yards per game in the air and 224 yards per game on the ground.
Despite this, Utah’s defense will give Oregon State a tough time. Yet, I believe Oregon State will put up enough points to overcome the challenge.
The Utah offense was not sharp at all against the Bruins. QB Nate Johnson was not great last week. If Cam Rising is still unable to go, Nate Johnson will likely be found quite wanting. I believe he will have a difficult time against a motivated Oregon State defense. This leads us to reason #2.
2. Oregon State should be motivated and desperate.
If Oregon State wants any chance of winning the Pac-12, losing to Utah on Friday is not an option. Utah, USC, Oregon, and others are viable contenders in the Pac-12. Thus, an 0-2 start in the Pac-12 could put the Oregon State Beavers in a hole that they cannot dig themselves out of. Oregon State should approach this game as if it were Game 7 of a playoff series.
Coming off a loss last week, Jonathan Smith will have plenty of ways to motivate his team. He will have the undivided attention of his football team. The Oregon State defense will be looking to bounce back after giving up 528 total yards to Washington State last week. They allowed Washington State QB Cameron Ward to have a 400+ yard game.
Before giving up 38 points to Washington State last week, the Oregon State defense had given up 33 points in the 1st three games of last season. Thus, the Oregon State defense should approach this game with a big chip on their shoulder.
A Utah offense missing its two best players may be the antidote that this defense needs.
This scenario is simple. Losing is not an option. If Oregon State approaches the game with this mindset, they will beat Utah.
3. Oregon State’s offensive line will give the Utah run defense its toughest test.
Currently, Utah has the top-run defense in the Pac-12. However, there is no question that the Oregon State offensive line will be up for the challenge that Utah presents with regard to the ground game.
Most of Oregon State’s starting offensive line was part of an offensive line touted as the best run-blocking line in the nation last year.
The Oregon State offensive line is at it again this year. The two-headed monster of Damien Martinez and Deshaun Fenwick are averaging 7.6 yards and 6.8 yards per carry, respectively. Utah will not dominate Oregon State on run defense like they have done with other opponents this season.
I predict Oregon State will defeat Utah 17-10 in a hard-fought battle.