Oregon’s 35-6 demolition of No. 13 Utah provides well-timed boost to CFP case

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SALT LAKE CITY – If No. 8 Oregon wanted to leave the College Football Playoff Selection Committee with something to think about when it considers who the best teams in the country are next week, Dan Lanning’s crew certainly went out and made a statement on a chilly Saturday afternoon that it should be the top-ranked one-loss program come Tuesday night. 

In an appropriately frightening display a few days before Halloween at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the Ducks did almost anything they wanted on both sides of the ball to run away with another convincing win over a ranked team as they topped No. 13 Utah, 35-6. 

The meeting between the two winningest teams in the conference who have combined to win the last four Pac-12 titles was hardly competitive after kickoff – and over well before halftime – as the visitors won for the first time in Salt Lake City for the first time since 2016. 

Here are quick takeaways from Saturday’s game:

No. 8 Oregon Ducks vs. No. 13 Utah Utes Highlights

No. 8 Oregon Ducks vs. No. 13 Utah Utes Highlights

Player of the Game

As good as tailback Bucky Irving was (83 yards, one touchdown) for Oregon, it was once again triggerman Bo Nix who led the way to another win with a near flawless outing. The quarterback, making his FBS record 55th career start in college football, finished 24-for-31 for 248 yards and three total touchdowns. 

Bo Nix bulldozes past Utah’s defense on a one-yard rushing TD as Oregon grabs a 7-0 lead

Bo Nix bulldozes past Utah's defense on a one-yard rushing TD as Oregon grabs a 7-0 lead

Play of the Game

Though it didn’t look like much on a cloudy day, Nix’s touchdown pass in the second quarter was one of the best showcases for his athleticism and arm. After taking the snap, he dropped back but had to dip under a defender to rifle in a throw to Troy Franklin in an extremely tight window. 

Tysheem Johnson’s interception fuels Bo Nix’s acrobatic three-yard passing TD as Oregon grabs 21-3 lead over Utah

 Tysheem Johnson's interception fuels Bo Nix's acrobatic three-yard passing TD as Oregon grabs 21-3 lead over Utah

Turning point

You could certainly point to a pair of first half turnovers – and both teams’ response to them – as being a good indicator as to how this one would turn out in the end. Midway through the first quarter, Utes defender Junior Tafuna punched the ball out from Irving just outside the red zone and recovered the fumble to set up the home side in prime position to make things interesting. However, the Ducks defense bowed up and forced a field goal while the offense marched right down the field in a nine-play, 75-yard drive that featured plenty of great throws by Nix to bring the quarter to a close.

If that felt like the tide was shifting firmly in the direction of Oregon, the first play of the second quarter confirmed it when Tysheem Johnson picked off a low Bryson Barnes throw just outside the red zone. Nix tossed another score to Franklin to go up 21-3 early in the second quarter and away they went from there.

Key stat

The loss snapped an 18-game home winning streak for the Utes which dates back to 2020. If you factor in the lack of a crowd during that pandemic-impacted season, the last time Utah lost with fans in the stands at Rice-Eccles was Sept. 16, 2018 against Washington. Not the way the program wanted to celebrate their student section with 53,586 in the crowd.

What’s next for Utah?

The Utes are in the thick of a difficult back half of the schedule in the ever-competitive Pac-12. They remain at home to welcome in one-win Arizona State next Saturday but then have two tricky games on the road at No. 5 Washington and a pesky Arizona team as they need to get some help if they want to get back to Las Vegas for the conference title game.

What’s next for Oregon?

Lanning’s side heads back to Eugene for a pair of home games, taking on Cal next Saturday before welcoming future Big Ten opponent USC the week after in what could be an elimination game in the Pac-12 title race that has some ramifications in the Heisman chase as well. Although externally they may not indicate it, the team will certainly be paying close attention to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s rankings being released on Tuesday to see how they stack up with the other one-loss teams around the country too. 

Bryan Fischer is a college football writer for FOX Sports. He has been covering college athletics for nearly two decades at outlets such as NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and NFL.com among others. Follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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