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.
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
|3.36||6th||Thomas Graham Jr.||CB||4||Oregon||3Jr|
|3.29||7th||LaMar Winston Jr.||OLB||32||Oregon||4Sr|
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.