Oregon may have seen its playoff chances plummet last week, but hope for a shot at the Pac-12 title is still alive and well.
No. 12 Oregon beat No. 10 Utah 20-17 in Eugene on Saturday to move into first position for the conference title game.
All the Ducks need is a win over rival Oregon State next week to advance to the Pac-12 championship, where they would face USC in Las Vegas.
Saturday’s win was a major setback for the Ducks (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12), who suffered a devastating loss to Washington on the same field a week ago. That loss knocked Oregon out of playoff contention and at the time looked like it might have knocked out star quarterback Bo Nix as well.
But despite an ankle injury he sustained last game against Washington, Nix started and fired against Utah. He and the Ducks’ offense marched downfield for a quick touchdown on the game’s opening drive and forged a 7-0 lead.
That lead increased to 17-3 at halftime as Oregon’s defense choked Utah.
That made things easier for Nix, who looked less mobile than usual as he probably wasn’t 100% healthy, but he largely avoided errors — save for one fourth-quarter interception — and mostly kept the offense on schedule.
He completed 25 of 37 passes for 287 yards with a touchdown and a pick.
The biggest mistake the Ducks’ offense made was a game when Nix wasn’t even on the field. On his first offensive play of the second half, Oregon brought on backup QB Ty Thompson to start a tricky reverse play, but the handover botched and Utes linebacker Karene Reid grabbed the fumble and hit. It cut Oregon’s lead to 17-10.
Utah then tied it 17-17 later in the third quarter on Jaylen Dixon’s 18-yard run.
Despite all that, Oregon responded with a long, methodical drive that was capped with a go-ahead field goal from Camden Lewis at 12:07 to the game. It was the difference as the Ducks twice beat Utah QB Cam Rising in the second half to seal it.
Rising struggled all night, completing 21 of 38 passes for 170 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions. Bennett Williams grabbed two of those picks for Oregon.
The Utes (8-3, 6-2) will now likely miss an attempt at repeating themselves as conference champions.