6 keys to the game: Ducks vs the Utes


PORTLAND (KOIN) – The time has come between a much-anticipated matchup between two of the best teams in the conference featuring the No. 13 Oregon Ducks taking on the No. 5 Utah Utes in the Pac-12 Championship game.

Here are six things that need to happen in order for the Ducks to get the win:

1. Justin Herbert can’t have his slow starts. 

As great of a quarterback as Herbert is for Oregon, his slow starts and inconsistency are part of the reason why the Ducks offense has been struggling. Luckily for the Ducks, they have been overall better than their competition. Now, when the Ducks take on Utah, they must play their best game, and for Herbert, that specifically means he needs to start fast, be consistent and show why he has been considered one of the best quarterbacks in the country. This Utah defense is by far the best the Ducks have faced. In order to get this win, Herbert needs to have a big game. 

2. Juwan Johnson needs to get involved early and often

With Utah’s defense being as dominant as its been all season, the Ducks need to find the right match-ups and take full advantage of them. One player that will always be a mismatch for a defensive back will be Juwan Johnson. With his size and his athletic ability, he can give the Utes defensive back group some fits. Early in the game, the Ducks need to get Johnson the ball and let him go to work and get in a groove. A big game for Johnson will open up the offense even more because the Utes will have to give him the majority of the focus.

3. Special Teams needs another big game

In the Ducks last game against the Orgon State Beavers, the special team play was absolutely phenomenal. The coverage teams did not allow the Beavers any sort of big returns and the Ducks owned the field position with some big-time returns from Jevon Holland. On top of that, Mykael Wright had the huge kickoff return touchdown which was the biggest play of the game. The Ducks are going to need another huge special team performance in order to get the win. 

4. Defensive backs need to be as sharp as ever

The Defensive backs have been elite all season long with the exception of the game against the Sun Devils. The defensive backs need to have their best game against the Utes. They need to cover well, not blow assignments and, more importantly, they need to help tremendously in the run game. These guys are going to need to run to the ball and need to tackle extremely well in order to stop the Utes offense. 

5. Penei Sewell needs to win his match-up with Bradlee Anae

The Ducks have the best offensive linemen in the country in Penei Sewell, who has dominated every single game he’s played in this season. He is going to have another huge matchup against the Utes as he takes on Bradlee Anae, who is the Utes’ best defensive linemen and one of the best in the country. Sewell hasn’t lost yet, but he has his work cut out for him in order to prevent Anae from having a huge game.

6. Ducks need to get Tyler Huntley uncomfortable 

Huntley has quietly put together one of the best performances by a quarterback in the conference. Huntley has completed 75% of his passes and has thrown 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions; he can also beat opponents with his feet and proves to be a handful when he is on his game. Whether the Ducks bring pressure or just have great pass coverage, they need to find ways to make Huntley uncomfortable and not let him get in his zone. Bottom line: Oregon needs to find ways to make him uncomfortable, and the more pressure they put on him, the better chance the Ducks have of forcing him to make bad decisions and get the Utes offense out of sync.

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