The Oregon Ducks (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) host the Utah Utes (4-5, 1-5 Pac-12) in the first ever meeting between these two schools as conference foes. Before the season, we joked about Utah not taking advantage of its supreme luck in not playing Oregon or Stanford in its first two seasons in the extended Pac-12. Welp, they're 1-0 against the Big Boys from the northern division thus far. Oregon, on the other hand, was likely knocked out of the race for the final BCS title by what was for all intents and purposes a blowout loss to now-Pac-12 North frontrunner—and lone team to lose to Utah in conference play—Stanford last week.
This game was declared a trap game for Oregon to start the season. It has since devolved into a hangover game. Can the Ducks regroup after a humbling defeat on the national stage? Is this the same Utah team that beat Stanford or will it be that other team? Will it be the end of Oregon's sellout streak?
Autzen Stadium's 94-game sellout streak, all since Sept. 18, 1999, and third-longest in the country, is in jeopardy again this week.â Rob Moseley (@DuckFootball) November 13, 2013
Even though this the first meeting between these two as conference foes, there is an interesting bit of history between these two programs. Urban Meyer's Utes' victory over Oregon in 2003 was one of the defining events leading up Bellotti changing from a pro-style offense to the spread-option, and the rest is history.
Keys to the Game
Super Mariota's knee — The once speedy Oregon quarterback was hobbled against Stanford. We all saw what happened to the Oregon rushing attack when the QB isn't a threat to run. Has the long week been enough for him to recover? Will Utah's defenders pull a Stanford and spend most of the game in the backfield?
Will the Utes make the game a nail-biter? — Utah may only be 1-5 in conference play but they gave Arizona State and UCLA much more of a game than expected. Oh, and they also beat Stanford. This is a team and a program thirsty for wins and to be viewed as something other than a shrug-worthy addition to the conference.
The Hangover — To paraphrase a tired cliche, Oregon can't afford to let Stanford beat them twice. While the Ducks of yore had a greater tendency to lose games following a big win (2011 to USC after beating Stanford, 2009 to Stanford after beating USC), this is an interesting situation. Helfrich himself has used the word: "There was a little lingering sludge, or kind of hangover, from the loss."
Around the Pac-12
Washington vs #13 UCLA (6 PST Friday, ESPN2) — The Bruins look to improve their chances at representing the South in the Pac-12 Championship Game against a Huskies squad thirsty for its seventh win.
Washington State vs Arizona (11 am PST, Pac-12 Network) — The battle of the conference's two feline mascots
California vs Colorado (2:30 PST, Pac-12 Network) — A match to decide once and for all which of these teams is the worst in the conference.
#4 Stanford vs USC (5 PST, ABC) — College Gameday, Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit are all in town for what will likely decide who represents the North in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Oregon State vs #19 Arizona State (6:30 PST, Pac-12 Network) — Remember when the Beavers were the most underrated team in the conference? Me neither.