Huskies host the Utes in a matchup that wasn't part of initial Pac-12 schedule
Both teams were originally scheduled to face different opponents this weekend. The Huskies were set to tangle with Washington State in the Apple Cup. The Utes were hitting the road to face budding Pac-12 South rival Arizona State. Neither game happened after the Cougars and the Sun Devils canceled because positive COVID-19 tests in each program left them with insufficient numbers of available players for this weekend.
Washington (2-0, 2-0 Pac-12) is emerging as expected as the primary challenger to Oregon in the Pac-12 North. The Huskies dispatched Arizona 44-27 in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicates. Washington built up a 37-0 lead entering the fourth quarter before the Wildcats closed the gap late. The Huskies went five straight quarters overall without allowing a single point.
Utah (0-1, 0-1 Pac-12) struggled in its belated season debut, falling 33-17 to Pac-12 South rival USC. The Utes could not overcome coughing up numerous turnovers on offense or defensive inexperience against the Trojans. It led to Utah falling in a season opener for the first time since 2007 and snapped the Utes' 11-game home winning streak.
Washington leads the all-time series 12-2, including a 5-2 mark since the Utes joined the Pac-12 in 2011. Both Utah wins have come in Seattle, including a 33-28 victory last season.
Utah at Washington
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 28th at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Washington -7
When Utah Has the Ball
The wheels fell off for Utah on offense in the opener against USC. Starting quarterback Cam Rising suffered a season-ending injury on his third series near the end of the first quarter. The Utes could not adjust to Rising's absence and ended up committing five turnovers.
Jake Bentley guided Utah through the final three quarters against the Trojans and was named the starting quarterback against Washington. Bentley struggled in his first game with the Utes, throwing for 171 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He led Utah on a single scoring drive and was erratic in his decision-making for much of the game. Some of those problems stemmed from inconsistent protection from the offensive line. Bentley will need to be more consistent himself this week to give a young Utes' defense some rest.
Utah used a committee approach in the backfield with mixed success. Still, the Utes may have found another potential star at running back. Ty Jordan shined when his number was called. The freshman finished with 32 yards on seven carries and also caught a pass for 21 yards. Jordan didn't have the longest run of the game among the four Utah running backs who split carries, but he showed greater consistency than the others.
When Washington Has the Ball
How consistent have the Huskies been on offense entering their third game? Washington is the only team in the nation that has played at least one game this year and not given up a turnover. The Huskies have allowed just one sack as well.
Dylan Morris took a step forward as the starting quarterback in the win over Arizona. The redshirt freshman threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns on 15-of-25 passing. His passing numbers are modest through two games, due to drops from multiple receivers, but Morris shows plenty of potential to emerge as a star. He has a strong arm and has excelled at executing on third and fourth downs. Morris has only scratched the surface of what he can do in the Huskies' offense.
Washington's running attack remains the team's bread-and-butter offensive staple. Like Utah, the Huskies are taking a committee approach to the backfield. It has worked out so far. Three backs — Sean McGrew, Richard Newton, and Kamari Pleasant — have totaled more than 100 rushing yards through two games. As a team, Washington is averaging 250.0 rushing yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry. That's given Morris enough space to get comfortable with running the offense and allowed the Huskies to sustain drives so their always tough defense can have a greater impact.
Four of the last five games between Utah and Washington have been decided by a touchdown or less. This is typically a defensive slugfest that goes down to the wire. But the Huskies seem to have enough of an edge to keep this clash with the Utes from being as dramatic. Utah is not the same team that gave Washington fits the last few years. The Utes are inexperienced at numerous key positions. The Huskies should be able to take control early and earn a comfortable victory at home.
Prediction: Washington 31, Utah 20
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports, and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.
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(Richard Newton photo courtesy of @UW_Football)