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The Oregon and Utah sequel went much like the first game two weeks prior.
No. 17 Utah (10-3) jumped out to a 23-0 lead in the first half Friday night on the way to a 38-10 victory over the Ducks to win the Pac-12 and go to the Rose Bowl for the first time.
Utah led 28-0 at halftime of a 38-7 win over Oregon on Nov. 20. And the halftime leads in each game were inflated by late Oregon mistakes. In November, Utah's Britain Covey returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown as time expired. Friday night, Oregon QB Anthony Brown threw an inexplicable interception just before stepping out of bounds with eight seconds left. That pick turned into a Utah field goal as time expired in the second quarter.
Much like he did at Utah in the first game, Brown struggled on Friday night. He threw two interceptions — one was returned for a touchdown by Utah LB Devin Lloyd — and Oregon (10-3) again failed to get any semblance of a run game going. The Ducks rushed for 74 yards on Friday after running for 63 yards in the first game.
Utah RB Tavion Thomas rushed for two touchdowns on Friday night to push his season total to a school-record 20. Thomas had three scores in the regular season win over Oregon.
Utah the clear best team in the Pac-12
Utah started the season 1-2 after losing back-to-back games to BYU and San Diego State. And then the Utes got rolling. Utah was the only team to lose just one game during Pac-12 play and established itself as the best team in the conference.
Each of Utah’s wins against Pac-12 opponents came by two scores or more. The closest win the Utes had was a 24-13 win over Washington State to move to 2-2. Utah beat USC by 16, Arizona State by 14, UCLA by 20, and Oregon by at least four scores in each of its two wins over the Ducks.
Friday night’s win clinched the first Pac-12 conference title for Utah and the school’s first conference championship since it won the Mountain West in 2008 as part of a 13-0 season. Utah is now headed to the Rose Bowl for the first time in school history and will likely play Ohio State if Michigan beats Iowa in the Big Ten championship game on Saturday night.
Utah's first Pac-12 title comes after two members of the team died in shootings over the past 12 months. RB Ty Jordan, the 2020 Pac-12 offensive freshman of the year, died of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound on Dec. 26. Aaron Lowe, a high school friend of Jordan's who took over Jordan's No. 22, died on Sep. 21 after he was shot at a house party.
"It’s tough to describe what we’ve been through," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham told ESPN after the game. "So proud of these guys."
What's next for Oregon?
The Ducks had a big chance to show the November loss to Utah was an aberration. It was not, even if Oregon entered Friday night's game as one of the most injury-plagued teams in the country.
Oregon opened the College Football Playoff rankings in the top four but lost any chance at making the playoff with that first loss at Utah. Now Oregon likely heads to the Alamo Bowl amidst rumors about coach Mario Cristobal's future.
Reports emerged Friday regarding Miami's interest in Cristobal despite Manny Diaz still being employed as Miami's coach. The Hurricanes do have a vacancy at athletic director and Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich is a candidate for the job.
Cristobal said after the game that he hadn't talked to anyone at Miami.
Mario Cristobal on reports Miami — who still has a head coach — is interested in him:
"I haven’t talked to anybody so let’s not create narratives as we sit here in this press conference. Oregon’s working on some stuff for me and that’s what I have right now."
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) December 4, 2021
That stuff Cristobal mentions is reportedly another contract extension and a pay raise. A Miami native and graduate of Miami, Cristobal came to Oregon at the end of the 2017 season after serving as an assistant at Alabama. Oregon has won at least nine games in all three of its COVID-19 impacted seasons under Cristobal and a win Friday night would have been a third consecutive Pac-12 title.
Will Oregon be looking for a coach in the near future? We should find out soon.