DALLAS (FWAA) The Utah Utes won the Pac-12 South title for the third time in four years and took No. 3 Oregon out of College Football Playoff contention with a convincing 38-7 win Saturday, a historic win in front of a packed house of 52,724 against the highest-ranked team to ever fall at Rice-Eccles Stadium. For scoring the most points Oregon has given up this season while holding the Ducks to a single touchdown for the first time since 2018, Utah earned the Cheez-It Bowl National Team of the Week honor for games of the weekend of Nov. 20, as selected by the Football Writers Association of America.
This is the third time for Utah (8-3) to earn this honor from the FWAA and first since 2015 when it won at then-No. 13 Oregon, 62-20, to win its first Pac-12 opener since joining the conference in 2011. The other honor came in 2004. All Division I FBS and FCS schools are eligible to be selected.
Utah flipped the stat sheet on both sides of the ball. Oregon entered the game leading the Pac-12 in rushing defense at 121.2 yards per game, but the Utes stuck to their ground game to grind out 208 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore running back Tavion Thomas ran 21 times for 94 yards and three touchdowns and now has a school-record 17 rushing touchdowns this season, tied for fourth in the FBS. He has scored three or more touchdowns in the last three games he's played (missed the Arizona game).
On defense, Utah faced the nation's 10th-best rushing offense but held the Ducks to only 63, Oregon's fewest in three seasons. Junior linebacker and All-America candidate Devin Lloyd had one tackle for loss among his six total stops, bringing his season totals for 21 TFL's and 42 for his career.
The Ducks were held scoreless in a half (trailed 28-0 at halftime) for the first time this season and gave up one of the day's highlight plays on special teams. Britain Covey returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown as time expired in the first half, his second of the season and fourth of his career. The Utes also blocked an Oregon field goal attempt.
"We did a nice job of running the football. The offensive line was outstanding," said Kyle Whittingham, who became Utah's all-time winningest coach (142-69) with the victory. "No turnovers again for us. That's been a huge part of our success in recent weeks is taking care of the football. (On defense) Oregon only got 63 yards rushing. They came in here averaging about 231 per week. That was the primary objective of this game was to stop the run, and we felt if we did that we had a good chance for a good outcome."
Utah has now won or shared the Pac-12 South title four times (2015, '18, '19, '21) since joining the conference in 2011.
The Utes host Colorado at 2 p.m. MT Friday on FOX to close the regular season before facing the North Division winner in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Dec. 3 in Las Vegas.
The other National Team of the Week nominee for the weekend of Nov. 20 is:
Ohio State (10-1): Quarterback C.J. Stroud rewrote some school records and changed the Heisman Trophy conversation with six first-half touchdown passes en route to a 49-0 halftime advantage as Ohio State steamrolled No. 7 Michigan State, 56-7. Stroud finished 32-of-35 for 432 yards and the six touchdowns and had three receivers · Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba · top 100 yards. At one point he completed 17 passes in a row, setting an Ohio State record.
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About the Cheez-It Bowl
The Cheez-It Bowl takes place on
Wednesday, Dec. 29 at 5:45 p.m. ET in Orlando, Fla. The postseason contest is hosted
by Florida Citrus Sports, a Central Florida-based nonprofit, and annually features
top teams from the Atlantic Coast and Big 12 Conferences. Cheez-It, the best-selling
cracker brand in the United States, signed on as the game's title sponsor in 2020
as part of its season-long support of college football. Last bowl season, No. 21
Oklahoma State beat No. 18 Miami 37-34 in front of an audience of Cheez-It "Wheel
Live Fans." This year's Cheez-It Bowl will be the 32nd edition of the game and its
21st in Orlando.