What does Oregon get because of its troubles following a 52-27 reduction last week at home against Stanford? : A road game against a better version of this Cardinal.
The Ducks play in No. 11 Utah Saturday in Salt Lake City, Utah, and on paper have zero chance to win, or even stay close. So much so that the 14-point spread seems to be an insult to Utah by about 10 points.
Oregon (3-7, 1-6 Pac-12) will roll into Utah (8-2, 5-2) with all the second-worst rushing defense in the Pac-12 at 255.4 yards allowed per game to face the hottest racing attack in the conference.
“Same thing as last week, really,” Oregon defensive coordinator Brady Hoke said. “You’ve got to stop the run. There’s little doubt about it”
Oregon hasn’t stopped the run all season. Not against UC Davis and Virginia in what seems like beams ago. Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey ran rampant last week, scoring three touchdowns as the Cardinal, owners of the worst offense in the conference, averaging 340 yards per game, put up 540 yards of total offense on the Ducks.
Utah, averaging 433.7 yards per game is much better on offense than Stanford thanks to the wonderful performances of running Joe Williams. He”retired” for four games to begin the season just to be spoken back into enjoying. Since his return, Williams has averaged 216 total yards and 156.5 yards rushing per game. He’s gained 939 rushing yards on 7.0 yards per carry.
“He is maybe the most volatile and also the quickest of some of the backs we’ve had here up to a home run-type back that could go the distance from anywhere on the field,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham told colleagues this week.
To make things worse for Oregon, Williams runs behind a veteran offensive line.
“They are bodily upfront,” Hoke said. “Quite senior-oriented offensive line together with three guys up there which have played a great deal of football”
The Ducks would be the contrary with one senior beginning on a young defense that’s rotated through 14 defensive linemen this year.
“We had a fantastic week of practiceprecisely the same thing we all did the week before,” Hoke said. “Our guys have come out and fought, and been physical each time we go on the area.”
That intensity has not translated into powerful performances on game days. Saturday will likely be no different.