On Friday night, the Utah Utes will look to keep their national championship hopes alive when they take on the Oregon Ducks in the 2019 Pac-12 Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. While Utah is playing for a shot at the college football playoffs, the Ducks simply want redemption after having their own title hopes ruined by Arizona State. This is an important game for struggling quarterback Justin Herbert, graded far and away as the top senior prospect by NFL scouts coming into the college football season.

What scouts will be watching

The most important match-up will be the play of Justin Herbert against the talented Utah defense, specifically their secondary.  Cornerback Jaylon Johnson is expected to enter the draft and I grade the junior as a third-round prospect.  Safety Terrell Burgess was not graded by scouts coming into the season but has played like a late-round draft choice.

This is an equally important contest for Ducks’ receiver Juwan Johnson.  After sitting on the sidelines with injury for more than a month, the senior returned and has looked impressive at times.  He has a lot on the line against Utah.

The other key match-up has Oregon offensive linemen Shane Lemieux, Calvin Throckmorton and Jake Hanson facing a very talented Utah defensive line.

When Leki Fotu is playing on all cylinders he’s tough to stop, as the senior is a terrific combination of size, athleticism, and power.  Edge rusher Bradlee Anae has improved his draft stock and possesses the speed as well as quickness to give Throckmorton fits.  John Penisini does not possess the natural gifts of his teammates, but the motor is always running.

Prediction

While the Utah defense and running back Zack Moss get all the ink, quarterback Tyler Huntley has been playing lights out recently.  He’s gone from draft afterthought to a prospect now receiving late-round consideration. 

Both teams are motivated – Utah wants to play for a national championship while Oregon wants to play spoiler.  The Utes have too many playmakers and too much impact talent not to win.  I see Utah winning by two touchdowns to take the 2019 Pac-12 championship.

PAC 12 Title Prospects

GradeRoundFull NamePos#SchoolYr
4.141stJustin HerbertQB10Oregon4Sr
3.842ndFrancis BernardILB36Utah5Sr
3.653rdJaylon JohnsonCB1Utah3Jr
3.633rdBradlee AnaeDE6Utah4Sr
3.554thLeki FotuDT99Utah4Sr
3.534thZack MossRB2Utah4Sr
3.455thShane LemieuxG68Oregon5Sr
3.435thJordon ScottDT34Oregon3Jr
3.425thCalvin ThrockmortonG54Oregon5Sr
3.415thJuwan JohnsonWR6Oregon5Sr
3.396thDarrin PauloT77Utah5Sr
3.38M6thJake BreelandTE27Oregon5Sr
3.366thThomas Graham Jr.CB4Oregon3Jr
3.356thTroy DyeILB35Oregon4Sr
3.346thJulian BlackmonCB23Utah4Sr
3.316thJavelin GuidryCB28Utah3Jr
3.316thJake HansonC55Oregon5Sr
3.297thLaMar Winston Jr.OLB32Oregon4Sr
3.297thTerrell BurgessS26Utah4Sr
3.287thNick PickettS16Oregon3Jr
3.287thDeommodore LenoirCB15Oregon3Jr
3.277thJohn PenisiniDT52Utah4Sr
3.20FATyler HuntleyQB1Utah4Sr
3.00FAJosh NurseCB14Utah5Sr
2.95FABrady AielloG66Oregon5Sr
2.72FABrenden SchoolerWR9Oregon4Sr
2.60RFAManny BowenOLB Utah5Sr

 

Tony Pauline is Pro Football Network’s NFL Draft Analyst and Insider. Follow him on Twitter @TonyPauline. Follow PFN on Twitter @PFN365. Also, be sure to join us on Saturday for the PFN College Football Game Day Blog, as Tony and the rest of PFN’s NFL Draft team give the latest analysis and inside scoops on the day’s games.