November 3, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes running back John White (15) avoids the tackle of Washington State Cougars safety Casey Locker (22) during a touchdown run in the first half at Rice-Eccles Stadium. - Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
Each week, we take a look at the various fronts of Washington's upcoming opponent. Today, we look at the offense of the Utah Utes.
If there are two teams in the conference that have embodied a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-style of play, they are undoubtedly the Washington Huskies and the Utah Utes. Washington, as we all know, has played like James Tiberius Kirk at home and like an anonymous Redshirt on the road; meanwhile, the Utes opened conference play with four consecutive losses, but have looked utterly dominating in wins against California and Washington State in which they outscored their opponents 98-33. With Utah in the midst of playing its best football of the year and with Washington having proven its mettle by upsetting two top-10 teams at home, there's little doubt that Saturday's victor will glide into the remainder of its schedule with considerable momentum.
Quarterback: Utah has undergone quite the roller coaster of quarterbacks this year, beginning with Jordan Wynn's unexpected retirement due to recurring shoulder injuries and extending to true freshman Travis Wilson's ascension over the previously oft-utilized senior Jon Hays. Wilson is coming off perhaps the finest game of his young career, in which he was 17-21 for 121 yards and two touchdowns against the Cougars; however, this is just his third career road start, and while I have nothing but love for our counterparts at Building the Dam and Bruins Nation, Reser Stadium and the Rose Bowl simply do not compare to the setting of CenturyLink Field and a raucous Husky crowd. Justin Wilcox has every incentive to put eight men in the box and force the young signal caller to beat an experienced Husky secondary with his arm, especially considering the talented running back whom Wilson is privileged to utilize as a security blanket.
Running Back: One of the most impressive workhorses in a Pac-12 backfield last year, John White IV got off to something of a slow start in 2012 before kicking his game into gear the previous two weeks against Cal and Wazzu. In both of those contests, White crossed the century mark and found the end zone twice, after not hitting paydirt since week one against Northern Colorado. Stuffing White's running game will be paramount for Washington, as Utah carries an 11-0 mark when Juan Blanco Cuatro rushes for 100 yards or more.
Offensive Line: Utah boasts some serious experience and skill at center and left tackle in seniors Tevita Stevens and Sam Brenner: Stevens has played every one of Utah's offensive snaps (617) in 2012, while Brenner has allowed just one sack in 614 snaps, earning him a second-team all-conference rating from Phil Steele's midseason review. As a unit, the line has shown a growing ability as the season has progressed to afford Wilson time to sit in the pocket and find his receivers downfield, which will be a key challenge for the Huskies: Obviously, the last thing that Wilcox wants to do is let a young opposing quarterback making his first start in a truly hostile environment get comfortable.
Tight End: Redshirt sophomore Jake Murphy is Utah's leading receiver this year, which is no surprise: When dealing with a quarterback carousel, it's expected that a passer might gravitate toward a big 6'4", 252 lb. target. Murphy has caught at least three balls each of the last five games, so Washington will likely key in on any looks that Wilson sends his way throughout the night. Also listed on the depth chart is senior David Rolf, a transfer from Michigan State who gets legitimate playing time but hasn't been much of a factor in the passing game.
Wide Receivers: The passing game is far from the Utes' primary strength, as the team ranks 11th in the conference in passing attacks, just ahead of -- who else? -- Colorado. Along with the aforementioned Murphy, Kenneth Scott, Dres Anderson and DeVonte Christopher are the names that you'll want to keep an eye on, as the trio accounts for six of the team's 13 receiving touchdowns.