Posted on October 7, 2020
The third time’s a charm for the Pac-12 as they released their third and final 2020 football schedule to be set in stone, at least for now. Utah will be playing every team within the South Division, and one crossover team from the North, which happens to be Oregon State.
Before I preview what that matchup might look like this year, let’s take a look at what happened the last time Utah and Oregon State football squared up.
In 2019, the Utes stomped the Beavers 52-7 on their home turf at Reser Stadium. The Beavers haven’t had a lopsided loss like that since 1992, when Utah beat them 42-9 in Salt Lake City.
I was fortunate enough to be at that game last year as a fan, witnessing the complete and utter dominance Utah showed since the very first snap. My clothes were damp and the seats were soaking wet, but it was worth staying for every second.
The small Utah contingent was pumped to see the return of Zack Moss coming off a shoulder injury, as well as the more dominant defensive performances of the year. The Utah victory certainly made the long drive from Salt Lake City to Corvallis worthwhile.
Oregon State fans didn’t enjoy it quite as much.
Luckily, the Beavers won’t have to face the loud, raucous fans at Rice Eccles Stadium this year, with the home field advantage being all but non-existent. Sure, it’s easier to travel across town than to fly across two states, but the eerily quiet stadium is a potential advantage for the OSU offense.
Speaking of offense, both teams have had to significantly adjust to the loss of some key players. Most notably, the Beavers lost quarterback Jake Luton to the Jacksonville Jaguars, raising the question of who will replace him.
The top two OSU prospects competing for the starting spot are returning redshirt sophomores Tristan Gebbia and Chance Nolan. Nolan has impressive high school stats, but Gebbia has better knowledge of the offensive playbook. In fact, Gebbia was responsible for Oregon State’s only touchdown against Utah, a 15-yard touchdown pass in garbage time, with less than a minute to play.
But while Oregon State has to figure out their new signal caller, Utah also has some equally big shoes to fill at quarterback, with two-year starter Tyler Huntley now with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. The top candidates for starting Ute quarterback this year are Jake Bentley and Cameron Rising, with Bentley likely to get the nod based on experience.
Both the Utah and OSU offenses have newer faces this year, but the Beavers could capitalize on the significant losses on last year’s NFL caliber Utah defense. Utah only allowed one touchdown in their last matchup and held the Beavers to just 48 rushing yards.
Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd will have to bring major pressure on Oregon State’s quarterback for the Utes to repeat their dominant performance from last year. Lloyd recorded just six and a half sacks last year in the shadow of sack leader Bradlee Anae.
The Beaver offensive line has to prove it can hold up better than last season for the offense to be more productive, and Utah’s inexperienced defense could work to OSU’s advantage. Oregon State won’t have a chance of beating the Utes if its offense isn’t sharper than it was in 2019.
Offensively for Utah, running backs Jordan Wilmore and Devin Brumfield need to prove they’re collectively capable of replacing the production of Zack Moss, who rushed for 121 yards and is already proving himself in the NFL.
Both teams are undergoing an adjustment year, but the combination of not having fans in the stadium, having so many defensive losses, and breaking in a new quarterback could open the door for Oregon State, if only slightly.
Nonetheless, the Utes will still come out on top of the Beavers, though it should be more of a dog fight than last year, with a tighter score in the crossover game for both teams.
You can read Cefalu’s other sports stories and columns at the Daily Utah Chronicle.
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