PAC-12 Championship preview

November 30, 2021

#10 OREGON (11-1) at #17 UTAH (9-3); Las Vegas; 8 PM ET; ABC … The Ducks and Utes will get it on for the second time in three weeks with a spot in the Rose Bowl on the line. Of course, that was the furthest thing from the Ducks’ minds the first time they met the Utes when all they had to do was win out and appeared to be locks to make the CFP playoff. However, Oregon came up flat in Utah and were crushed 38-7. So instead they’re playing for a spot in the Rose Bowl, which is a nice consolation prize, but its still a consolation prize.

And there’s plenty of consolation for pro scouts in the PAC-12 title game with several of the top defensive players in the country in play. Indeed, this may be the last chance to take a look at Ducks’ DE Kayvon Thibodeaux (#5, 6-5, 260), the consensus top-rated prospect overall for the 2022 draft. Thibodeaux, who was just named a finalist for this year’s Bednarik award, given annually to college football’s best defensive player, was banged up much of the early part of the season and finished the campaign with just 6 sacks. Indeed, with all due respect to Thibodeaux, Chuck Bednarik, and the committee that votes on these things, a pretty good case can be made #5 wasn’t necessarily even the best defensive player on his own team as sophomore LB Noah Sewell (#1, 6-2, 255) had a terrific year posting a team-leading 94 tackles as well as 4.5 sacks and 5 pass breakups. And yes he’s the brother of former Ducks’ OT Penei Sewell, a top ten pick at the 2021 draft, but no he’s not draft eligible this year.

And with all due respect to Thibodeaux, Chuck Bednarik, the committee that votes on these things, and Sewell the younger, a pretty good case can be made that neither was actually been the best defensive player in the conference. Indeed, that honor could just as conceivably have gone to Utah LB Devin Lloyd (#0, 6-3, 235) who has been dominant this fall, posting 99 tackles, including 8 sacks and 14 other tackles for loss, while also picking off three passes. Lloyd isn’t going to go as high as Thibodeaux, but has a very good chance to be the first linebacker off the board this coming April somewhere in the middle of the opening round.

Meanwhile, the Ducks do have several other possible pro prospects including dual-threat QB Anthony Brown (#13, 6-3, 225), RB Travis Dye (#26, 5-10, 190), CB Mykael Wright (#2, 5-11, 185), WR Johnny Johnson (#3, 6-0, 200), C Alex Forsythe (#78, 6-3, 305)  and SS Jordan Happle (#32, 6-0, 210), but for the most part they are more third-day types. Same story for the Utes who have a couple of veteran safeties in Vonte Davis (#9, 6-0, 195) and Brandon McKinney (#28, 6-0, 200), a pair of late-round, free agents types, but for the most part, like the Ducks, the Utes are a very young team that could be good for some time.