We have seen the Ducks’ defense start to come together as the season progresses and the players get comfortable with the system that Defensive Coordinator Don Pellum has overhauled in the last year. This Saturday the Ducks will face a unique challenge in the Utah Utes who use two different quarterbacks. While this might sound like an inability to pick a starter, the formula has worked well for the Utes this season, carrying them to a 6-2 record and a national rank of 20th.
Andrew Greif of “The Oregonian” points out that the Ducks saw a system similar to this in the Cal game when they switched out Jared Goff for running quarterback Luke Rubenzer as well as Stanford who uses the “wildcat” formation. Preparing for two different quarterbacks with different play styles will be a challenge for the defense but one that they are ready for. With more than half of the games played, they have plenty of film to analyze and predict what type of play is going to be run depending on who is lined up in the backfield.
For the Utes, Travis Wilson is a giant passer (6′ 7″ tall and 233 pounds) and Kendal Thompson is a scrambling runner. Thompson stepped in to help Utah beat UCLA when Wilson went down with an injury.
Utah, however, is going to be without leading receiver Dres Anderson. Even without Anderson the passing game will still be something the Ducks need to watch. In addition they will need to contain the second best rusher in the Pac-12, Devontae Booker, who is averaging 123.8 rushing yards per game.
The Ducks have an answer to all this, however, since practicing against Marcus Mariota gives them a chance to see a scrambling quarterback every week.
Oregon also has a backfield threat of their own in Royce Freeman who is only 154 yards short of becoming the 17th Duck to reach 1,000 yards rushing in a single season, not to mention the first true freshman in Duck history to accomplish that feat.
A win in any of the next three games will clinch the Pac-12 North for the Ducks as well as bolster their College Football Playoff aspirations. A Duck team that has faced challenges playing in one of the toughest divisions in college football is ready to take on another challenge this weekend to show the playoff committee that they are one of the best teams in the country.
Top Photo by John Guistina