A potent offense and the best defense in the Mountain West Conference have Utah off to its best start in four years.
Given the upset it just pulled off, Oregon State is not likely intimidated.
On Thursday at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the 15th-ranked Utes look to remain undefeated and avenge last year's season-opening loss to the Beavers, who are coming off a stunning upset of the top-ranked team in the nation.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Oregon State +12 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 52% of bets for this game have been placed on Oregon State +12 (View College Football bet percentages).
After defeating conference rival Air Force 30-23 on Sept. 20, Utah (5-0) avoided a letdown with a 37-21 victory over Weber State on Saturday to move up two spots in this week's rankings.
The Utes, who are off to their best start since the 2004 team went 12-0, rested their starters for the final quarter after taking a 34-7 lead. The reserves gave up two late touchdowns, including one with 12 seconds remaining to make the final score deceptively close.
"We wanted to jump on them early and play efficient in the first half. We did that. We got the win and now we've got a big one coming up,'' said senior quarterback Brian Johnson, who went 18-for-22 for 194 yards.
While Utah had little trouble taking care of a FCS program last week, Oregon State (2-2) knocked off the team thought to be the best in the FBS, upsetting then-No. 1 Southern California 27-21 last Thursday night.
Playing as 25-point underdogs, the Beavers jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead en route to their first victory over a top-ranked team since defeating the O.J. Simpson-led Trojans 3-0 on Nov. 11, 1967.
"I think we made a statement, like we can come out and beat anybody on any given day. It's not always the best team that wins on a day. It's who plays hard,'' Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers said.
Rodgers' older brother, sophomore slot back James, had six catches for 36 yards and two touchdowns, while Jacquizz ran 37 times for 186 yards and two scores.
"For whatever reason we just couldn't tackle him,'' USC coach Pete Carroll said. "We'd hit him in the backfield and he'd keep bouncing. Him hiding behind the line of scrimmage was very effective."
The Trojans aren't the only team that's had trouble tackling Jacquizz Rodgers. The 5-foot-6 Rodgers is the nation's leading freshman rusher with 449 yards. He has also scored six touchdowns.
Utah boasts the Mountain West's top defense (231.4 yards per game), and is fifth in the nation against the run (60.2 ypg), but coach Kyle Whittingham knows stopping Rodgers won't be easy.
"(Rodgers) is extremely productive, he's strong and quick. We've got to focus on slowing him down," Whittingham said. "He is like all great backs - when nothing is there he will find a way to make yards."
The Utes also feature a solid running game, with tailbacks Matt Asiata and Darrell Mack providing a powerful one-two punch.
Both Asiata and Mack should be fresh for this game, after they didn't take their usual pounding against Weber State. Mack carried 12 times for 58 yards and Asiata added 10 rushes for 37 yards. Through four games, Asiata has rushed for a team-high 320 yards and six touchdowns on 64 attempts, while Mack has 319 yards and three TDs on 65 carries.
Led by Johnson, Asiata and Mack, Utah's offense is averaging 38.4 points and 426.4 yards per game.
The Utes hope their skill players can stay healthy for Thursday's entire game, as Asiata (broken leg) and Johnson (shoulder) both suffered first-half injuries in last season's 24-7 season-opening loss at Oregon State.
The Beavers hold a 9-4-1 edge in the all-time series.
All games in this series since 1992
UTAH is 1-1 against the spread versus OREGON ST since 1992
UTAH is 1-1 straight up against OREGON ST since 1992
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
OREGON ST is 1-0 against the spread versus UTAH over the last 3 seasons
OREGON ST is 1-0 straight up against UTAH over the last 3 seasons
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at UTAH since 1992
UTAH is 1-0 against the spread versus OREGON ST since 1992
UTAH is 1-0 straight up against OREGON ST since 1992
Games played at UTAH over the last 3 seasons.
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.
[S] Cameron Collins is "?". - Hamstring - 09/23/08
[S] Austin Hall is "?". - Knee - 09/23/08
[RB] Patrick Fuller has transferred - None - 09/01/08
[OL] Brent McNeil is out indefinitely - Toe - 09/01/08
[OG] Jeremy Perry upgraded to probable. - Knee - 09/23/08
[T] Tavita Thompson will be eligible to return on (11/01) vs Arizona State
[PK] Justin Kahut is "?". - Hip - 09/23/08
[DE] Victor Butler upgraded to probable. - Ankle - 09/23/08
[CB] James Dockery expected to miss at least three weeks - Knee - 09/01/08
[S] Bryan Payton has transferred - None - 09/01/08
[QB] Sean Canfield upgraded to "?". - Shoulder - 09/23/08
[TE] Brad Clifford expected to miss - Hip - 09/20/08
[DT] Lei Talamaivao is expected to miss entire season - Ankle - 09/07/08
[DT] Kenape Eliapo out 6-8 weeks - Foot - 09/01/08
[LB] Matt Martinez is out for the season. - Bicep - 09/17/08
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