The 2-5 Oregon State Beavers are winless in Pac-12 play this season, and that isn’t expected to change today as the Beavers travel to Salt Lake City and take on the No. 13-ranked Utah Utes. Last week, both teams suffered tough losses, but the Utes have more talent and more motivation for this one today.
What’s the motivation for Oregon State going forward? That depends on your point of view. Win a conference game? It will be tough for the Beavers, with UCLA, California, Washington and Oregon on the schedule after Utah. The team is young, and Oregon State’s best chance to win a Pac-12 game this season was last week at home—and they couldn’t deliver.
As for the Utes, despite last week’s upsetting road loss at USC, they still have a chance to win out and represent the Pac-12 in the College Football Playoff. That’s all the motivation any college team needs these days, we’d say. Utah has a one-game lead still in the South division with five conference games left to play.
One of the key strengths of the Utes this season has been controlling turnovers. Last week, Utah’s quarterback threw four interceptions, but the Utes are still seventh in the nation in turnover margin (plus 1.14 turnovers per game, plus-eight on the season), while the Beavers aren’t as good there (plus 0.14, plus-one).
Utah’s defense is ranked 53rd in the country, giving up 371 yards per game and 5.28 yards per play. Oregon State’s offense is ranked 111th, gaining 342 yards per game and just 4.91 yards per play. The Utes are not a great defensive team, but they don’t need to be against the Beavers.
Oregon State Head Coach Gary Andersen has said his team will use two QBs going forward, and that may throw off Utah here and there for a play or two. Generally, however, the Utes are disciplined, well-coached team that doesn’t allow big plays very often. The steady consistency helped Utah to the 6-0 start before last week’s struggles against the Trojans.
The Beavers are not the Trojans. Furthermore, neither Seth Collins nor Nick Mitchell has demonstrated an ability to throw the ball successfully for Oregon State this year, thus making the Beavers offense very one-dimensional and easier to shut down. As noted many times this year, if Oregon State can’t throw, they’re not going to win in the Pac-12.
Scoring just 20.4 points per game, the Beavers rank last in the Pac-12. Oregon State’s pass offense is averaging just 153.1 yards per game on just a 48.0 completion percentage—also last in the conference.
Oregon State’s defense is ranked 72nd in the country, giving up 402 yards per game and 5.76 yards per play. Utah’s offense is ranked 73rd overall, gaining 390 yards per game and 5.55 yards per play. This is a more even matchup of units in this game, which puts even more emphasis on the turnover margin and the home-field advantage.
Beavers defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake was a part of Utah’s staff last year, and perhaps he can give the OSU defense an evening edge of sorts on this side of the ball. If his unit can generate some turnovers, that would be a plus. However, expect Utah to be very smart with its ball management in this game, keeping the Beavers defense on the field for long stretches to wear them out.
Utah’s bad offensive game of the season came last week; it’s hard to expect the Utes to have two bad games in a row. They’re too experienced and too disciplined for that, especially at home.
It won’t be a blowout, but it won’t be particularly close, either. Look for Utah to grind it out in the first half against Oregon State, on the way to a 10-point lead at intermission. Then, as usual, the Beavers defense will falter as the game goes on from fatigue, and the Utes will pull away for a relatively easy 27-10 victory.