This season I’ll be breaking down a few of college football’s biggest games each week and giving out at least one bet I like from each matchup.
Let’s take a look at one of this week’s key Pac-12 games between Utah and Oregon.
Utah vs Oregon Spread, current line:
Utah vs Oregon Best Bet Prediction:
Due to Nix’s uncertain status this line is available at various numbers, shop around and take Oregon against the spread at +2.5 points.
When Utah is on Offense
Utah is a run-centric offense, with a 55% run rate in neutral game situations, per Campus2Canton. However, this is not the same physical Utah run game we’ve seen in years past.
Utah ranks 99th in opponent-adjusted rushing yards before contact. This is partially due to the Utes’ traditional offense which limits their ability to force the defense into light boxes.
That trend is bad news in this matchup based on these numbers from Sports Info Solutions:
- Utah runs in a light box on 39% of attempts, ranked 110th
- Oregon allows 3.4 yards per attempt with a stacked box, ranked 23rd
Tavion Thomas is coming off a career game (180 yards on 22 carries), but that came against Stanford, which ranks:
- 107th in yards per attempt with a stacked box
- 119th in opponent-adjusted yards before contact allowed
In the passing game, Cam Rising takes a traditional dropback of 3 or more steps at a 53% rate, the 35th-highest mark in the nation, per Sports Info Solutions.
Oregon’s defense has mixed results versus traditional dropbacks:
- 42% pressure rate, ranked 22nd
- 9.5 yards per attempt, ranked 118th
So if Utah can protect Rising, perhaps they can produce some big plays in the passing game. However, that has not been Utah’s strength.
Utah ranks 75th in explosive pass rate, gaining 20 or more yards on just 10% of pass plays. Meanwhile, Oregon’s defense ranks 18th in explosive pass rate allowed (7.6%).
When Oregon is on Offense
Oregon is a run-heavy offense and has a distinct advantage in the run game against Utah’s defense.
The Ducks’ offensive line excels at creating running lanes, and their running backs have gained three or more yards before contact on 43.3% of attempts, the second-highest rate in the nation.
Expect Oregon to dominate this game on the ground, regardless of Utah’s approach based on these numbers from Sports Info Solutions:
- Oregon vs a stacked box: 6.0 yards/att (ranked seventh)
- Utah with a stacked box: 5.5 yards/att allowed (118th)
- Oregon vs a light box: 5.9 yds/att (29th)
- Utah with a light box: 6.2 yds/att allowed (113th)
Those numbers do not include quarterback rushing, and Bo Nix is also a threat in that area, with 8.2 carries per game at 6.7 yards per attempt.
Utah ranks 107th in yards per attempt allowed to quarterbacks (6.6).
Unfortunately, Nix may miss this game with a leg injury 一 he was briefly knocked out of Oregon’s game last week, but did return in the fourth quarter.
Oregon has not officially commented on Nix’s status, but wide receiver Kris Hutson may have let Nix’s inactive status slip.
On the chance Nix plays, I’ll still share some of his stats, because his numbers overwhelmingly tip the scales in Oregon’s favor. In the passing game, Utah’s preferred approach appears to play right into Nix’s hand.
Utah uses single-high coverage on 59% of plays outside the red zone, per Sports Info Solutions.
Here are Nix’s numbers against single-high coverages outside the red zone:
- 67% completion rate (ranked seventh)
- 11.5 yards per attempt (ranked second)
- 56% positive EPA rate (ranked fourth)
Partially due to its single-high tendency, opposing offenses frequently challenge Utah downfield. Utah faces throws of 15 or more yards downfield at a rate 9.0% above expected, the 31st highest rate.
This also bodes well for Nix, who leads the nation with a 64.2% completion rate at 15 or more yards downfield.
If Nix cannot go, Ty Thompson, a redshirt freshman, likely gets the start in his place.
We’ve seen very little of Thompson, but he’s 1-10 with a touchdown and two interceptions on throws 10 or more yards downfield in his career 一 so that definitely raises doubts about Oregon’s passing attack if he’s forced to play.
Final Thoughts on Utah vs Oregon Best Bets
If we don’t get any news on Nix’s status prior to kickoff, it’s reasonable to just avoid this game.
However, Oregon’s appears to hold such a massive edge in the run game that I’m going to take the points and trust the Ducks to cover regardless of who is taking snaps.
Even if Oregon’s passing game suffers, Utah’s struggles against the run with a stacked box raise doubts as to their ability to contain the run even if Thompson is at quarterback.
Other College Football Betting Predictions for Week 12: