College football Championship Week kicks off on Friday night as the Utah Utes lock horns with the Oregon Ducks for the Pac-12 Title.
The Utes have gone 8-0 straight up and against the spread over their previous eight games and are 6.5-point favorites against the Oregon Ducks.
From the kickoff to the final whistle we break down the odds for this West Coast battle with our best bets and predictions
UTAH UTES VS OREGON DUCKS (+6.5, 46)
Utah has an explosive offense but puts up an unimpressive 6.0 points per game in the first quarter of games. Oregon averages 7.5 ppg in the opening quarter and that number has gone up to 10.3 ppg over their last three contests.
We like the +125 payout for Oregon to score first. However, considering that the Ducks have scored 56 touchdowns this year while settling for just six field goals, we love the first score to be an Oregon TD even more.
PICK: First Score Method – Oregon Touchdown +175
FIRST HALF BET
Both of these offenses have been very good this season, especially in the first half of games where Utah averages 19.1 ppg (17th in the country) and Oregon puts up 17.4 ppg (26th). However, when they face each other tonight they will both be going up against the best defenses they have seen all year.
Utah’s stop unit is loaded with talent at every level. Defensive lineman Bradlee Anae and Leki Fotu will be NFL bound, linebackers Devin Lloyd and Francis Bernard led the squad in tackles, while defensive backs Jaylon Johnson and Julian Blackmon will likely make the All-Pac-12 team for the second year in a row. The Utes hold opponents to 6.7 ppg in the first half of games (seventh-best in the country) and that number has gone down to just 3.3 ppg over their last three contests.
Oregon, led by linebacker Troy Dye and freshman defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, has allowed 9.0 first-half ppg to FBS opponents. And that number has dipped to 6.3 ppg over their previous three games. With messy weather expected for this clash we’re taking the Under on the 1H total.
PICK: First Half Under 21
Oregon’s offense is led by senior Justin Herbert, a likely first round NFL draft pick, who has thrown for 3140 passing yards and 31 touchdowns this season. But Herbert could have a hard time airing it out tonight. The Utes have one of the best pass defenses in the nation, allowing just 5.8 yards per pass attempt (fifth-best in the FBS) and 194.9 passing yards per game.
The weather is also expected to be wet and windy (more on that later) which could impact how often Herbert airs it out. Herbert is coming off a 174-yard performance last week and his passing yards total for this game is set at 245.5, a number he has surpassed just twice in his last five games. Take the Under.
PICK: Justin Herbert Under 245.5 passing yards
FULL GAME TOTAL
We’ve mentioned it before but weather will play major a factor in tonight’s game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. There is a high chance of rain while wind is projected to be over 20 mph. Both squads practiced with wet footballs all week in anticipation of the conditions. That could play havoc with the passing games of both squads.
Expect both teams to lean on their strong running games. Only one problem with that, both teams are terrific at defending against the run. The Ducks hold opponents to 116.7 rushing yards per game on 3.4 yards per carry while the Utes give up just 58.3 rushing yards per game and 2.3 yards per carry – the best marks in the country.
It’s likely that both teams will stack the box and force the other side into passing situations. This game could be messy so we’re leaning towards the Under.
PICK: Under 46
FULL GAME SIDE
As we’ve stressed throughout this article, most signs are pointing towards a low-scoring, ground-based battle. If that’s the case 6.5-points is a lot to spot a strong defensive team like Oregon.
While Utah has a terrific running back in Zack Moss (200 carries for 1246 yards and 15 touchdowns), Oregon is no slouch in the running game themselves. The Ducks running back committee has totaled 381 carries for 2193 yards, so even if Justin Herbert and the passing game are limited they should still be able to generate some offense.
As strong as Utah’s defensive line is, Oregon’s offensive line anchored by Shane Lemieux and Calvin Throckmorton is among the best in the nation. This game will likely be determined in the trenches and the Ducks should be physical enough to stand up to the Utes.
The best teams that Utah has faced so far this season are Washington and USC. They had a come-from-behind five-point win against the Huskies and lost to the Trojans. Oregon’s biggest test was their season opener against a very good Auburn team where they lost by six points after leading until the fourth quarter. Take Oregon and the points.
PICK: Oregon +6.5