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With the season halfway over, the Utes (2-4) desperately need their first Pac-12 win, but the road doesn’t get any easier with a trip to Corvallis this weekend.
The Utes will take on the eighth-ranked Oregon State Beavers Saturday night as a 10-point favorite, and here are five things you can look for in the game.
- Utah (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12) vs. No. 8 Oregon State (5-0, 3-0 Pac-12)
- Date: Saturday, Oct. 20
- Time: 7:30 PDT
- Site: Reser Stadium (45,674/FieldTurf) Corvallis, Ore.
- TV: ESPN2
- Radio: ESPN700, SIRIUS/XM (94/199)
- Series Record: OSU leads 9-6-1
- Last Meeting: 2011 (Utah 27-8)
- Kickoff Weather: Chance of showers, temps near 50
1. Can the Utes get to the quarterback? The Utes fared pretty well against USC in the first half two weeks ago. The second half was a different story. The difference? The Utes pressured Matt Barkley in the first half but couldn’t get to him in the second. Utah did a decent job of putting pressure on Brett Hundley, but his mobility allowed him to escape the collapsed pocket and make big plays. So a mobile Cody Vaz may be able to do the same thing, which brings us to the second storyline to look for.2. Can Cody Vaz repeat his debut? After Sean Mannion’s knee surgery, Vaz stepped in as the Beaver starter against BYU and flourished. Vaz was 20-for-32 for 332 yards and three touchdowns, leading Oregon State to a 42-24 win over the Cougars. He was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts. Now, however, Mannion has miraculously healed and is probable for the Utah game but not as the starter. The start will go to Vaz, but Mannion will be available. It’ll be interesting to see how long of a leash Vaz will have if the Utes can have more luck against him than the Cougars.
3. Let White run. Head coach Kyle Whittingham said that the Utes need to get running back John White the ball more after the UCLA loss. In the UCLA game, White averaged almost four and a half yards per carry in the first half. In the second half, he touched the ball one time. That’s unacceptable if the Utes want to win. The whole reason the Utes were able to stay above .500 last season was their ability to run the ball effectively. Last year’s efforts made White a preseason Heisman contender. Will offensive coordinator Brian Johnson give White more carries? That may determine if the Utes can pull the upset.
4. The evolution of Travis Wilson. Wilson made somewhat of a surprise start last week against UCLA and performed pretty well in his debut as a college starter. Look for the Utes to open it up a little bit more on Saturday night and let Wilson throw the ball downfield a bit. With that game plan, it might be make or break for the Utes. Wilson will either be really good, throwing for 300 yards and two touchdowns, or really bad, throwing for 150 yards and three picks.
5. Key match-up: Marcus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks vs. Utah secondary. This is the biggest match-up of the game for the Utes. Wheaton and Cooks are almost as formidable an opponent for the Ute secondary as Robert Woods and Marqise Lee from USC were two weeks ago. I was mocked for saying that that duo would be the biggest test the Ute secondary would ever face. Woods was injured in the game but still managed six receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown. Lee on the other hand went off, with 12 receptions for 192 yards and a touchdown. If the Utes don’t do a better job against the Oregon State duo, they’re in trouble, and Utah’s secondary has struggled this season.
Trevor Amicone is the founder of byutahinsiders.com, which covers BYU, Utah and national college football with weekly polls, bowl projections, opinions and analysis. Follow its brand new Twitter page at @BYUtahInsiders and Trevor's at @TrevorAmicone.