I don't like this game. I haven't liked the way it sets up since the day it was scheduled.
You don't want to play Utah on the road early in the season. One of the problems the Utes will face as the season progresses is getting used to the grind of playing a quality conference opponent each week. No more in conference breathers with the likes of Wyoming, New Mexico, UNLV, and SDSU.
The Utes are far from being ground down at this point and are actually quite fresh coming off a rare early season bye week. Utah is 6-0 under Coach Whittingham coming off of bye weeks. So I guess we should all be shaking in our shoes.
This is one of those games that people in Utah are going to remember for a long time. This is the first Pac 12 home game for the Utah program. It was also made an early season homecoming game which means that anyone who is anybody who is associated with the school and football program will be in SLC this weekend.
This is going to be an emotional encounter and the Huskies need to be mentally prepared to handle it. Handling it means taking care of the ball against one of the nations top ball hawking defenses. The Utes have been living on the turnover and the Huskies need to tighten up that part of the game.
Unfortunate turnovers helped keep Hawaii and Cal from being blown out at Husky stadium. A turnover allowed the sky to start falling in the third quarter against Nebraska. Turnovers against Utah this weekend will mean that the Huskies have blown a great opportunity to pick up a decisive early season road win.
Vegas thinks that the Utes are seven points better than the Huskies ( it has been increased to more than ten since I wrote this) and I think that is a little steep. I think the game is more of a toss-up which would make the Utes a 3 point favorite since they are the home team. So where are those other 4 points are coming from?
Washington definitely has the edge on offense. Chris Polk is one of the best running backs in the country. He was held to only 60 yards on 20 carries last week but he did have a 70 yard TD reception that ended up being the decisive TD in the win over Cal.
Utah has been stingy against the run this season allowing only 2.6 yards per carry. The majority of those yards were given up against USC who picked up 151 against the Utes on the ground. Expect Polk to cross the century mark once again in this game.
Keith Price has exceeded everyone's expectation at quarterback. Price is by far the best young quarterback in a conference of veteran QB's. People are whispering that the only better quarterback in the conference right now is Andrew Luck.
Price leads the nation in TD passes (14) and has uncanny accuracy and touch in addition to being able to extend a play with his scrambling ability. He has plenty of quality targets to throw to and is connecting on over 67% of his tosses.
Defense has been a big problem for Washington. The Huskies are giving up an average of 34.75 points and 453 total yards per game. An average of 327 of those yards come through the air each game so the secondary hasn't exactly played up to expectations this season.
Utah isn't exactly an offensive juggernaut. They struggled to put points on the board at home in a 27-10 win over Montana State. They didn't get the job done in the red zone against USC on the road in a 23-14 loss which was decided on the last play of the game.
Utah QB Jordan Wynn has completed a little over 54% of his passes this season for an average of around 192 yards per game. He has five TD passes and only one interception. The offense is balanced with the Utes averaging 171 on the ground which is a solid total.
Field position is really important on the road. A big key to containing the Utah offense (or any offense for that matter) is to give them a long field to work with. The light air means that Erik Folk is going to be able to kick it out of the end zone on kickoffs.
The Huskies need to come out and take control of this game. Take control of this game early and you take the crowd and emotion out of the game. Washington is probably the better team but all the emotional intangibles point toward Utah for this one from the onset.
Now it is time to discuss the pick...I think the experience gained from playing on the road against Nebraska is a big plus for Washington. Even on its best day SLC will never match game day at Lincoln, Nebraska. Washington should be able to deal with the game day atmosphere.
Speaking of the actual atmosphere the Huskies will be playing at an elevation of 4226 feet above sea level. That could possibly be a huge advantage for the Utes if they can keep the Husky defense out there for extended periods of time. Maybe that is where those four extra Las Vegas points are coming from?
This is a definitely a tough one to predict but I am going with Washington because I truly believe they have the ability to outscore Utah. The performances of Keith Price, Chris Polk, and the depth at all the skill positions will be the difference in a 35-27 win on the road which will give the Huskies a 4-1 record heading into the bye week.
Beating Utah is really important.
If the Huskies can get it done I can see a 9-3 or 8-4 season coming over the immediate horizon.