STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL/GAME BREAKDOWN
Scouting the pass defense: The Ducks are very tough to figure out when it comes to their pass defense. On one hand, the unit has given up 20 touchdown passes on the season, often being beat on explosive plays and struggling to make open-field tackles consistently.
But Oregon also has 13 interceptions on the year, tied for the conference lead. Safeties Jevon Holland (4) and Ugochukwu Amadi (3) are absolute ballhawks with seven combined interceptions, the most by a safety duo in the Pac-12.
Cornerback Deommodore Lenoir has emerged as the Ducks’ best cover corner throughout the season. He has three interceptions and eight passes defended, showing a nose for the ball. He often got into trouble by being too physical but as the season has progressed, Lenoir has found the ability to be physical and cautious at the same time.
Utah will be trotting out freshman quarterback Jason Shelley. Shelley, who will be making his first career start in place of the injured Tyler Huntley, finished last week 4-of-11 for 59 yards and an interception after replacing Huntley.
“I know that they've listed Shelley as the starter, we've seen him play before,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said. “This is a very talented guy… he does it both with his arm and his feet.”
Not much is known of Shelley except his ability to run the ball so look for the Ducks to try and bait the youngster into making questionable throws that Oregon can exploit.
“This is his element, the spread offense… we are excited to see what he can do,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said of Shelley. “We will have a full week of getting him the No. 1 reps and see what happens — we have a lot of confidence in him."
What Shelley does have going for him is slot receiver Britain Covey, arguably the toughest receiver in the Pac-12 despite his 5-foot-8, 170-pound frame. Covey leads the Utes with 50 catches for 555 yards on the season, often getting the ball in space and using his athleticism to spring free.
Keeping Covey in front of the Ducks and rallying to him will be very important because Covey, with one move, can be off to the races with his speed.
Samson Nacua is the exact opposite of Covey, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound redzone nightmare who uses his size and strength to boxout smaller defenders, something the Ducks have struggled with.
I expect the Ducks to stack the box and bring pressure to Shelley from all types of angles to get him guessing, forcing him to get rid of the ball quicker than he’d like. The more uncomfortable Oregon can make Shelley feel, the better the odds it has of bringing home the win.