Dan Lanning has been impressed this season with the coaching job done by Kyle Whittingham and the entire Utah staff to battle constant injury issues and lingering availability questions.

The Utes spent the first seven weeks of their season waiting and hoping that Cameron Rising and Brant Kuithe would be available at some point. Neither have made it back — and Whittingham announced after the USC win they won’t be coming back this year.

They’ve also had to watch as key players on both sides of the football have gone in and out of the lineup every single week.

Utah was down to two healthy running backs coming out of its bye week before the staff decided to turn safety Sione Vaki loose on the offensive side of the football. His emergence in the last two weeks has provided a spark for the group and the Utes have won back-to-back games thanks in no small part to Vaki’s efforts.

“The amount of injuries that they’ve dealt with, and for (Whittingham) to be able to utilize defensive personnel on offense and shuffle positions and utilize offensive linemen at tight end, I think it’s just really impressive,” Oregon’s head coach said on Monday when he met with reporters.

The eighth-ranked Ducks and the 13th-ranked Utes square off in Salt Lake City on Saturday. It’s a potentially massive step toward securing a spot in the Pac-12 title game for whoever wins.

That Utah is still in this position is remarkable.

“Everyone’s always known that he’s a great coach, but the way that he’s been able and his staff’s been able to utilize the people they have (is impressive). I know at the beginning of the year, he spoke about the depth of his team. It’s starting to really show up. He has good depth, but they’re utilizing people in different ways than they anticipated when the year started and he’s done a great job coaching that group.”

The two sides square off at 12:30 p.m. PT on FOX.