Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM

Pac-12 Championship

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Oregon vs. Utah

Venue/Location: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California
Time/TV: Friday, Dec. 6 (ABC, 8:00 p.m. ET)
Line: Utah -6.5, Total 46.5

Having wrote Friday night college football betting previews all season, I know that the Pac-12 as a conference likes to showcase their wares on Friday's, and they get to be the lone show in town this week. The conference gets to crown their champion first and make a statement (one way or another) into how the final college football rankings will take shape. A win for Utah and they likely get into the playoff if everything else were to hold as is right now, while an Oregon win opens up the door for the Big 12 specifically, but also some debate.

The pressure is quite thick if you are a Utah fan/backer, and we all know that pressure can burst pipes or create diamonds. Which side of that equation the Utes end up falling on remains to be seen, so let's get right to breaking this game down.

The case for backing Utah in this game centers on them ending up on the “diamonds” end of that pressure equation, as everyone knows this is a must-win for the Utes. Must win doesn't equate to will win though, and even if it did, you've got the whole pesky point spread question of will Utah win by a TD or not to deal with as well. Early action saw Utah get a bump from the opening number, but I have a hunch that was just bettors who were looking to get out ahead of the market. It's easy to assume that Utah will get the majority of support as the week goes on because of the “must win” angle, and the motivational aspect of the Utes needing plenty of “style points” to help their CFB Playoff case.

With that being the likely arc of the betting market for this game, getting the best of the number on Utah meant that early action was necessary, but should this line reach -7 I would expect to see some buyback come Oregon's way. And yet, it's the notion of Utah needing “style points” that is highly intriguing to me in the sense that it's not the side I'm all that considered with, it's the total.

The total has seen nothing but 'under' action since opening at 51, and with the weather forecast projecting a lot of rain in San Francisco for this game, it's likely an early weather related move. But just like “must win” doesn't equal “will win,” rainy weather doesn't equal 'under' especially when you've got a team that's very used to wet weather like Oregon involved. Furthermore, let's revisit this notion of Utah needing “style points” or a dominant win to help further their case to the CFB Playoff selection committee.

If Utah is going to get a dominant win, that means they are going to have plenty of points up on the scoreboard. Utah scored 30 or more points in 10 of their 12 games this year and never fewer then 21. With an average point total of 35.6 per game, we should be able to assume that Utah will put up what, at least 24 points in a blowout win, but most likely more right.

Defensively, the Utes have been great all year in allowing just 11.3 points per game, as only two foes have scored 20 or more against them this season – USC and Washington. Both of those games came on the road for Utah – this isn't a road game, but it's not a home game either – and those two foes were two of the four teams Utah faced in Pac-12 play this year that ended up with a winning record. The other two were Arizona State and California, and Utah did hold them to a combined 3 points, but they were also home games for the Utes.

In other words, the only conference games Utah played this year against an above average (ie winning) team outside of Salt Lake City saw their foes put up at least 28 points against them. And I'm pretty sure that 33-28 win for Utah in Washington had some rainy weather involved as well. Washington and USC scored at least 7 points in seven of those eight quarters played against Utah, so it's not like it was one bad quarter/half filled with mistakes for the Utes either. Those opponents were consistently moving the ball against this stout Utah defense, and as long as Oregon shows up and is interested in playing spoiler, I believe they are capable of doing the same. Speaking of which, everyone knows it's a “must win” spot for Utah, but how about we look at this game from an Oregon perspective.

Oregon's playoff hopes may have died a few weeks back against Arizona State, but winning the conference is still the #1 goal for every program in the country when they begin the season in August. The Ducks have an opportunity to still attain that goal and with the strength of their team being on offense, they'll rely on that side of the ball to try and get the job done. The Ducks know they are far less likely to win a 14-10 style of game here, and the more they are able to move the ball and put up points on Utah, the more the pressure ramps up on the Utes as they start to shift towards the 'pipe bursting' side of the pressure equation. How is that not good for the 'over'?

And let's say Oregon does end up no-showing in this game, knowing that they've got no playoff hopes and QB Justin Herbert is more concerned about protecting his health for his future pro career. Well, they will no show defensively as well in that scenario, and we could see Utah put up 40+ points themselves. The Utes average 35/game as it is, and with rainy weather potentially lending itself to a few turnovers, if they end up coming on the right side of the field, quick points could be put up in a hurry.

Even in that scenario – a Utah blowout win where they score 40+ – this game should sail 'over' the total. I mean, you'd have to go all the way back to November 2007 to find a game where this Oregon program got shut out, and they've only been held to less than 7 points once this entire decade. So even in a no-show effort from the Ducks, they should still find the end zone at least once.

I'm not so sure a no-show effort by the Ducks offense will be in the cards though, as they can still reach their main goal with a win in this game (winning a conference title) and if Herbert is more concerned about his individual future, putting a solid game tape out there against a quality defense like Utah's can only help his cause.

And when you consider that Utah being a defense-first program is not exactly a new phenomenon this year, and these two programs have met every season since 2013 with at least 57 total points scored in all of those contests (5-1 O/U), defensive slugfests just aren't the norm for these two programs. You can easily see why the 'under' got all the early action with the weather forecast and both defenses having solid season long numbers, but the bulk of those numbers have come against sub-par Pac-12 teams – only half the conference finished with a winning record.

These are two quality teams squaring off, and in the majority of scenarios in terms of how this game likely plays out, it's not hard to see points being scored. Sure, I've been wrong on breakdowns like this before (and I will be again), but this total is just far too low now and the best way to bet this game is going on the high side of this total.

Best Bet: Over 46.5

YTD Record: 6-8 ATS

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