Oregon’s quest to reach the College Football Playoff went up in smoke on Saturday night in Salt Lake City.
The No. 3 Ducks were blown out 38-7 by No. 23 Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium as Utah clinched a spot in the Pac-12 title game. Utah completely controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in the win and held Oregon to fewer than 300 yards of offense.
The defense smothered the vaunted Oregon rushing attack, limiting the Ducks to just 63 yards on 23 carries. Utah’s offense wasn’t explosive, but it was efficient with Tavion Thomas’s three rushing touchdowns leading the way.
The game was tight early on, but the Utes blitzed the Ducks with a three-touchdown spurt late in the second quarter that was too much to overcome. The third of those three touchdowns was an epic 78-yard punt return touchdown by Britain Covey as time expired in the first half.
As called on Utah Utes radio: pic.twitter.com/ojhELuuCny
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) November 21, 2021
That thrilling return by Covey gave the Utes a 28-0 lead they would not relinquish.
The Ducks are the highest-ranked opponent Utah has ever defeated at home. The victory also made Utah coach Kyle Whittingham the program's all-time wins leader. Whittingham, the team's coach since 2005, now has a 142-69 record at Utah.
The Utes have never won the Pac-12 since they joined the conference. Could this be the year it happens?
Oregon loss has a huge effect on College Football Playoff
Utah clinched a spot in the Pac-12 title game with the win and its victory has far-reaching reverberations across college football.
Oregon dropped to 9-2 with the loss and is almost certainly eliminated from playoff contention. The Ducks were ranked No. 3 in the most recent CFP rankings and will drop significant when the next rankings are revealed on Tuesday night. Oregon was the Pac-12’s only CFP hope and now the conference will likely be left out of the four-team field for the fifth consecutive season. No Pac-12 team has made the playoff since Washington did in 2016.
If Oregon won, it would have remained inside the top four of the playoff rankings and clinched a spot in the Pac-12 title game. Now Oregon needs to beat rival Oregon State next weekend to ensure a rematch with Utah in the title game.
No. 4 Ohio State should move up to No. 3 with Oregon's loss. On top of that, undefeated Cincinnati could be in line to move into the top four for the first time with plenty of other scenarios — including a two-loss Alabama reaching the playoff — in play.
The Bearcats should be No. 4 on Tuesday night ahead of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma State.