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Keys to the game: Utah at (8) Oregon State

Keys to the game: Utah at (8) Oregon State

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SALT LAKE CITY — The season hasn't exactly went the way the Utes had hoped for, but there is some good news.

There are still six games left in the season, that is plenty of time to make some improvements and get some wins.

It can all start this week when Utah takes on eighth ranked Oregon State. It will be an uphill battle, but if the Utes accomplish these keys they may walk away with a win.

Utah (2-4) at No. 8 Oregon State (5-0)
Game Notes
  • 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: Few showers, temps in the upper 40s

1. 50% is the magic third down number.

Utah had one of their best performances on third down this last week on offense. Travis Wilson was able to convert a couple third downs with his legs, and made some clutch throws down the field as well. That progress has to continue this week. In the Pac-12, opposing offenses are going to put up some points, it will be crucial for Utah's offense to keep serve. If Utah can be at a 50% conversion rate on third down, that will give Utah's defense time to make any type of adjustments they need, and it will keep Oregon State's defense on their heels. Conversely, Utah's defense had major trouble against UCLA getting off the field on third down. Utah, most the time, would win first and second down and have UCLA in third and long, but would allow UCLA to convert. Fortunately, this week Utah won't be facing a mobile quarterback. It will be crucial for Utah to get to the quarterback on third down to get off the field. If Utah's defense holds the Beavers to under 50% conversion rate, that will keep Oregon State's offense out of rhythm. 2. 23 is the number on offense.

Utah has a new young QB leading this offense, with an all-conference running back right beside him. Brian Johnson has a major task in front of him on how to balance this offense. The complaint last week was that John White did not get the ball enough. This week the number I want to see him get, in terms of carries, is at least 23. If he can get to 23 carries, he should be able to get into the groove of the game. Meanwhile, I think Travis Wilson should get about 23 throws in the pass game. The offense needs to be on the shoulders of John White and that run game, then supplemented by the pass game. If Utah can achieve this balance and give the wolfman his needed carries, Utah will be more successful offensively. 3. At least five big plays.

Utah has had a major lack of big plays this season. Sure, they got a couple against USC that put them in an advantageous position, but overall they haven't made the big play. John White needs to bust some big runs in this game. A receiver needs to take a catch to the house on a slant route. The offense needs to take some pressure off themselves to constantly move the ball, and bust some big ones. This goes for the other side of the ball as well. Utah has only two interceptions on the season. Utah's defense, namely the secondary, has to make some game changing plays. The defensive back field needs to jump some routes and set up some short fields for the offense, or make a big sack on a corner blitz, or have a pick six. If Utah can get these big, momentum changing plays, that will go a long way to upsetting the number eight team on the road. Going up against the number eight team in the country in their house is a big task. This is an opportunity for this Utah team to get that statement Pac-12 win.

This is the kind of game that can turn a season around.

Now it is up to the Utes to come together and put together a full 60 minutes of football.

Shane Roberts is a producer/writer for the U Fan Cast on, a Utah-centric podcast that gives a voice to the fan. Twitter: @Shane_U_FanCast

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