How you view this game probably has a lot to do with how much stock you put into the two games you’ve seen so far this year. Jake Browning has a 1:1 TD:INT ratio and Myles Gaskin is averaging 4.0 YPC behind a shaky O-Line. If you think those numbers will hold, you should be very afraid of Utah’s #1 rated defense by S&P+. If you look through a wider lens, you might notice that Browning and Gaskin have performed much better over a longer stretch of time.
So far, the Husky offense has been buoyed by previously unheralded supporting players like Aaron Fuller, Ty Jones, Salvon Ahmed, and Sean McGrew. If those supporting players remain productive while the stars track back to their established level of performance, there is a lot more upside.
For now, I’m going to split the difference. The Husky offense will do just enough in a difficult environment. The defense will give Utah’s struggling offense all kinds of trouble. The game will be close, but UW will start Pac-12 play on the right foot.
Washington 20 , Utah 17
I think we have another nail biter on our hands.
What is it with Utah’s offense against the Huskies? They seem to come alive when they play us, and on Saturday I think they’ll be able to move the ball between the 20s with Zack Moss and Britain Covey, who the defense will have a hard time covering. Tyler Huntley will take advantage of the lack of speed in our LBs and scramble for some first downs. But, I think they’ll struggle in the red zone to get touchdowns, and will settle for FGs. The WRs have been a problem for them and I think this will continue against Washington’s elite secondary.
Regarding Jake Browning, let’s just say I hope the run game is working, because he’ll be good for an interception right into ninth-year senior, Chase Hansen. On the other hand, I think the strong play for the receivers continues, especially for Utah native Ty Jones who will be playing in front of his friends and family. Utah has a very strong secondary but the downfield pass game feels strangely reliable, even with Jake Browning’s up-and-down play.
Myles Gaskin came alive two years ago in Salt Lake and punished Utah with 19 carries for 151 yards and a TD. He had a quieter game last season in Husky Stadium, but had two TDs including the game-tying score with a minute left. The health of Nick Harris is crucial because there is a fairly large dropoff between him and our next best center. Having to re-shuffle the line before a road trip to one of the PAC’s toughest venues, against a stout front seven, when the run game has barely gotten out of second gear? That could determine the game. Either way, I think we see Gaskin get close to 20 carries, with another 10-12 touches for Ahmed.
It’s been hard to get a read on Washington this year, when you consider all the hype and emotion around the Auburn game, followed by the lackluster North Dakota performance. My guess is the Dawgs play Utah somewhere closer to the level they showed against Auburn. Washington escapes.
Washington 24, Utah 23
How on God’s sweet Earth is Utah’s defense so constantly dominant? No, legitimately, I’m asking.
The bad news for Washington: Utah has only allowed 124 yards passing through two games (yes, you read that correctly). The good news: against Northern Illinois, the Utes didn’t have to defend against any real downfield threat, and both against NIU and week one against Weber State, they had a huge talent advantage. The other good news: Utah’s offense was positively anemic last week in DeKalb. The other bad news: it doesn’t matter how anemic Utah’s offense is—they always seem to align just right against Washington.
Basically, I’m very optimistic that the Huskies’ defense should keep the Utes’ offense at bay after holding Auburn to 21 points—an offense much more potent than Utah’s—and, were this game week two, I’d be quite optimistic about the Dawgs’ offense after they marched down the field at Auburn (assuming they learned their lesson about getting too cute in the red zone). The thing is, this isn’t week two; it’s week three, and Washington’s offense just looked…off last week and has left a bad taste in my mouth. I think we’ll see that the sloppiness against North Dakota was the exception, not the rule, but if they play like that against Utah, oh my sweet goodness it wouldn’t look good. If, on the other hand, they play like they did against Auburn but improve on red zone efficiency, it shouldn’t be a problem. Also, Utah’s pass rush is bananas, but after holding their own (relatively) against the Tigers, I feel better about the Dawgs where that’s concerned—if Nick Harris is back at center. Same thing with the running game, which looked less than stellar without Harris but with him in, held its own against Auburn’s crazy front seven. Without him, I’m not so sure.
If the Dawgs’ offense plays like it does against Auburn, final score 28 – 13, Washington. If they play like they did against North Dakota: 17-10, Washington, and we’re in for another stupidly stressful game.
(Editor’s note: I’m going to use the “if we play like Auburn” score as her official prediction. If we don’t win by two scores, blame Gabey for not being more certain.)
Washington 28, Utah 13
I’m not going to pretend that what I saw out of the offensive line against North Dakota didn’t scare me, especially going up against Utah’s defense. But as much as I may be worried about the Washington offense, I’m infinitely more skeptical about Utah’s offense. Through two weeks, S&P+ has Washington’s offense ranked 48th and their defense 5th. Utah’s defense is even better at #1 in the country but the offense is an abysmal 102nd. The only way that Utah will be able to consistently move the ball in this game is if Tyler Huntley picks up four or more third-down conversions with his legs.
We still have no idea whether Nick Harris is going to play tomorrow and probably won’t know until players take the field for warmups. But given the way that Jesse Sosebee played against North Dakota, I think his availability could very easily be worth an extra touchdown for the Dawgs.
The other thing I’m anxious to see is whether the Huskies decide to take chances and get blitz-happy in order to pressure Tyler Huntley into bad decisions. I don’t foresee Utah’s receivers beating the Huskies 1-on-1 on the outside so sending extra pressure could badly disrupt Utah’s timing.
I know that Utah always plays the Huskies tough and winning on the road is never easy. But for some reason I can’t bring myself to have nearly the level of trepidation that I did for the Auburn game. Huskies cover.
Washington 24, Utah 13
This is obviously a huge game, and I am expecting the Huskies to treat it like one. I’ve watched Utah twice this season, and while the defense has been lights out, they have not faced a team even remotely as talented on offense as Washington.
The UW running game might take a little while to wear down Utah, but if Jake Browning can continue his trend of hitting big plays down the field and reverse the trend of WTF short throws, we should finally see Myles Gaskin get going.
Tyler Huntley is a little scary, but when I say that he has the potential to scare UW and Ute fans alike. He will fire the ball into some tight windows, and the opportunity for Ben Burr-Kirven to pick off a pass in the middle of the field should present itself. Britain Covey is a dynamic playmaker despite his small stature, and the UW secondary will need to keep his run after the catch in check.
I like the Husky defense to be stout against Zack Moss and the Utah running game, and while Huntley will make some plays with his feet and arm, he will be the one making the big mistake instead of Browning.
Washington 27, Utah 17
No suspense: I’m picking UW here.
I do worry that the Huskies go into this game a little bit more beat up than the Utes and with seemingly more fan discontent. But the latter can make a road trip even more useful to a team that is in “circle the wagons” mode by lowering the outside noise and allowing the players an opportunity to do their jobs with fewer distractions.
Salt Lake is a brutal place to play. Of this there is no doubt. But the Utes are a team with a lot of questions. The receivers outside of slot man extraordinaire Britain Covey have disappointed. The offensive line has been pedestrian. The special teams have been surprisingly inconsistent.
UW has more experienced talent at most positions no matter what you think of the QB debate. While I expect the Dawgs to struggle a bit moving the ball at first, I like the big-play potential that Washington brings to the table with guys like Salvon Ahmed, Quinten Pounds, and Ty Jones, not to mention the chain-movers in Myles Gaskin and Aaron Fuller.
That plus an asteroid-sized chip on their collective shoulder sways me. The Dawgs are eyes wide open going to Utah and I’m sensing a convincing, physical win.
Washington 31, Utah 13
Predictions Straight Up:
Washington- 6; Utah- 0
Predictions Against Spread (UW -5):
Washington- 4; Utah- 2
Average Final Score:
Washington- 25.7 over Utah- 16