STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL/GAME BREAKDOWN
Scouting the pass offense: It’s difficult for any offense to rely solely on one wide receiver or playmaker, yet that’s what Oregon has been doing — and doing it well.
Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell isn’t just any receiver though. He’s arguably the best in the Pac-12, and with the stats to back it up. Since conference play began, Mitchell has 50 catches for 735 yards (122.5 yards per game), all tops in the Pac-12.
Because of his play, quarterback Justin Herbert has been to help sustain drives by knowing that when needed, he can always go to Mitchell.
But this does have some downfall because if Mitchell is somehow shutdown or covered, Oregon’s passing game becomes almost nonexistent as receivers Brenden Schooler, Johnny Johnson III and Jaylon Redd have all struggled to find separation.
To be successful, the Herbert must spread the ball around to other receivers and get them more involved to keep teams from double-teaming Mitchell.
“I think Jaylon, Johnny and Schooler have really come on and they're a big part of the offense,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said. “Their touches haven't been as much as we would like them to be… we expect that to get back on track here in the near future."
Tight end Jacob Breeland, who is Herbert's favorite target outside of Mitchell, must play up to his size and become the reliable target the Ducks so badly need. With breakaway speed and good hands, Breeland is second on the team with 301 receiving yards, and his 15.8 yards per catch proves his big play ability.
Utah will counter with a passing defense that holds opposing quarterbacks to a Pac-12 best 54.5 completion percentage. The Utes have given up just 11 touchdowns to 10 interceptions and 214.7 passing yards per game.
Utah’s secondary is a blend of everything needed to contain big-time passing offenses.
Julian Blackmon is the best of the bunch, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound cover corner who often draws the coverage of the opposing teams best wideout, this time being Mitchell for Oregon.
Jaylon Johnson leads the team with three interceptions while nickel corner Javelin Guidry shows quickness, speed and explosiveness to keep pace with any receiver in the slot. Marquise Blair is the enforcer, the big-hitter while Corrion Ballard might have the highest ceiling of any of them.
Utah’s Kyle Whittingham is a brilliant coach, so it’s expected that he’ll find a way to negate Mitchell’s effect on the game, forcing the other players to step up and for Herbert to find them.
This is one of those games that will go a long way into determining Herbert’s NFL future. He must show the ability to find multiple receivers and not just lock onto his primary target. If he can do this, look for the Ducks to fly high in the end.
“They are very talented, tremendous quarterback and a receiver that is putting up big numbers,” Whittingham said of the Ducks.