This Week in Pac-12 Football
PAC-12 FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
PREVIEW: Oregon is making its third FCG appearance (2011, 2014, 2019), while Utah returns for its second FCG appearance (2018, 2019). While both teams finished with 8-1 conference records, the Ducks will be the home team based on the Pac-12’s tiebreaker. Since the teams did not meet during the regular season, the next step is compare their record against the next highest-placed common conference opponent. That opponent was USC, who Oregon defeated, while Utah’s only defeat of the season was at USC. Oregon (35.8 ppg) and Utah (35.6 ppg) will be led by a pair of veteran quarterbacks in quest of the Pac-12 title - Oregon’s Justin Herbert (261.7 passing ypg, 31 TDs, 5 interceptions, 160.7 passing efficiency) and Utah’s Tyler Huntley (231.1 passing ypg, 15 TDs, 2 interceptions, 188.6 passing efficiency). Both teams have been tough defensively with Utah leading the nation in rushing defense (56.2 ypg) and third in scoring defense (11.2 ppg), while Oregon is 10th in both rushing defense (101.6 ypg) and scoring defense (15.8 ppg). The champion, if not among the top four teams in the final CFP rankings, will be the Pac-12’s representative in the Rose Bowl Game.
ABC: Chris Fowler, play-by-play; Kirk Herbstreit, analyst; Molly McGrath, sideline
Series Record: ORE leads, 22-10-0. First meeting was in 1933, a 26-7 Duck victory in Eugene. Neither team has won more than three straight in the series. The Ducks hold a 4-2 series edge since the Utes joined the Pac-12 in 2011.
Last Meeting: Nov. 10, 2018, Salt Lake City, Utah prevailed, 32-25. Both Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss suffered season-ending injuries the week before at Arizona State, which led to Jason Shelley and Armand Shyne stepping up for the Utes. In his first career start, Shelley completed 18-of-31 passes for 262 yards and rushed for both of Utah’s touchdowns. Shyne rushed for a career-high 174 yards on 26 carries (6.7 avg). Matt Gay set a school record, and tied a Pac-12 record, by hitting on all six field goal attempts, including a 55-yarder at the end of the first half. Oregon’s Justin Herbert completed 20-of-33 for 288 yards and 3 TDs.
PAC-12 FOOTBALL NOTEBOOOK
PAC-12 FCG: It’s the third trip to the Pac-12 Championship Game for Oregon, the second for Utah. Previous FCG results for these two teams:
2011 Oregon 49, UCLA 31
2014 Oregon 51, Arizona 13
2018 Washington 10, Utah 3
Complete Pac-12 FCG results and records are on pages 9-12.
THE FRIENDLY CONFINES: The home team was just 31-23 in Pac-12 play. Only OREGON and UTAH went undefeated at home in conference play, each with 5-0 records vs. Pac-12 foes.
THE CFP RANKINGS: UTAH moves up to No. 5, OREGON drops to No. 13, and USC stays atNo. 22 in this week’s CFP rankings ... UTAH leads the Pac-12 and ranks sixth nationally in weeks ranked in the College Football Playoff Poll, with 29 weeks, trailing only Alabama (36), Clemson (36), Ohio State (36), Oklahoma (34) and LSU (32). The No. 5 ranking by Utah is the Pac-12’s highest ranking since the final ranking in 2016 when Washington was at No. 4.
FOUR OR MORE WINS: The Pac-12 Conference is the only FBS conference with all its teams having four or more victories this season. Only once has the Conference had a season where all teams had won four or more games (1965).
UTAH DEFENSE HOLDS STRONG: Utah is one of three ranked teams (also Clemson, Ohio State) in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive yards per play. The Utes are 9th in offensive ypp (6.91) and 4th in defensive ypp (4.20). Here’s were the Utes rank defensively among the top 10:
1st in rushing defense (56.3 ypg); opponents average just 2.3 yards per carry
2nd in first downs allowed (167)
3rd in total defense (243.8), scoring defense (11.3)
4th pass efficiency defense (107.52)
10th in red zone defense (70.0%)
Utah’s FBS-leading rush defense (56.3 ypg) is the Pac-12’s best since Arizona’s Desert Swarm defense of 1993 that allowed just 30.1 rushing yards per game.
ZACK ATTACK: UTAH senior RB Zack Moss has rushed for 100 or more yards in seven games this season, including five of the last six with a season-high 203 at Arizona. He leads the Pac-12 in rushing (113.3 avg). Moss already owns the school career records for rushing (3,897 yards - sixth among active FBS players) and rushing touchdowns (38). However, it’s his pass catching ability that’s been gaining attention of late. Over the last six games, he’s pulled in 20 receptions for 310 yards and one score. In his first 37 games as a Ute, he had 40 catches for 304 yards.
YOU COMPLETE ME: Four Pac-12 QBs are among the 17 FBS quarterbacks who have completed at least 67.5% of their pass attempts this season (minimum 15 passes per game/played in 75.0% of team’s games). That’s more than any other conference. Those four have combined to complete 1,171-of-1,640 (.714) for 13,736 yards, 120 TDs, 32 INT.
2. Tyler Huntley, Sr., UTAH .755 (188-of-249, 2,773 yards, 16 TD, 2 INT)
5. Anthony Gordon, Sr., WSU .719 (465-of-647, 5,228 yards, 45 TDs, 16 INT)
6. Kedon Slovis, Fr., USC .718 (260-of-362, 3,242 yards, 28 TDs, 9 INT)
t16. Justin Herbert, Sr., ORE .675 (258-of-382, 3,140 yards, 31 TDs, 5 INT)
Of note, here are the Pac-12 single-season completion percentage records:
Season (min. 150 att): .726 Tyler Hilinski, WSU, 2017 (130-of-179)
Season (min. 300 att): .713 Andrew Luck, STAN, 2011 (288-of-404)
Season (Freshman, min. 100 att): .685 Marcus Mariotta, ORE, 2012 (230-of-336)
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN: Five FBS quarterbacks have thrown two or fewer interceptions this season (min. 15 attempts/must play in 75.0% of team’s games). Of those five, two reside in the Pac-12 - UTAH SR QB Tyler Huntley (2 INT in 249 attempts) and ARIZONA STATE FR QB Jayden Daniels (2 INT in 310 attempts).
QUARTERBACK DEBUTS: Due to injuries, Pac-12 teams have combined to start 22 different quarterbacks this season. Not only has the Pac-12 started 22 different signal-callers, but 11 have made their first-ever FBS start in 2019.
HAVE BALL, WILL CARRY: Four Pac-12 running backs have rushed for 1,000 yards this season with three hitting that mark in their regular season finale. To date, UTAH’s Zack Moss leads the Pac-12 (1,246 yards), followed by ARIZONA STATE’s Eno Benjamin (1,083), UCLA’s Joshua Kelley (1,060) and WASHINGTON’s Salvon Ahmed (1,000).
COLLEGE FOOTBALL AWARD FINALISTS
BILETNIKOFF: USC WR Michael Pittman Jr. (95 receptions/1,222 yards/11 TDs).
GROZA: WASHINGTON STATE PK Blake Mazza (20-of-21 FGs, .952, long of 51 yards).
OUTLAND: OREGON LT Penei Sewell (PFF - 95.9 run-blocking grade, 92.7 pass-blocking grade, allowed just six pressures on the QB this season on 436 pass-blocking snaps)
BURLSWORTH: CALIFORNIA S/KR Ashtyn Davis (171 career tackles, 7 career INT, 1,604 kick return yards)
BUTKUS: CALIFORNIA LB Evan Weaver (173 tackles/14.4 per game)