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Utah Utes vs. Washington Huskies Preview and Prediction

Author:
Devontae Booker

Devontae Booker

Points could be in short supply when Utah travels to Seattle to face Washington. The Utes and the Huskies have emerged as two of the Pac-12's strongest defensive teams this season.

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Washington leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense and red-zone defense. The Huskies have allowed opponents to score just ten touchdowns in 28 trips inside the 20-yard line (35.7 percent). They have allowed just 16.9 points per game in eight games this season. Washington has outscored its opponents in every quarter this season, including a 104-28 third-quarter advantage.

Utah is no slouch either in containing opposing offenses. The Utes lead the Pac-12 in rushing defense, allowing just 113.1 yards per game on the ground. They are second in scoring defense, allowing just 21.4 points per game. Utah leads the league with 13 interceptions and ranks second in turnover margin (+8) behind USC.

Washington ranks second in the Pac-12 in total defense, allowing 360 yards per game. Utah is third with 363.6 yards per contest.

The Utes are still seeking their first win against the Huskies. Washington leads the all-time series 8-0 and it won both previous Pac-12 meetings in 2011 and '12 by an average margin of 18 points.

Utah at Washington

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: FOX

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Spread: Washington -1.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Huskies' Youth Movement

Youth is being served in Seattle. Fifty-two true and redshirt freshmen are on the Washington football roster this season. Many of these newcomers have had a tremendous impact in their first year with the Huskies. True freshman RB Myles Gaskin has rushed for more than 100 yards in three consecutive games. Gaskin leads the team with 655 yards and six touchdowns on 108 carries. True freshman QB Jake Browning has also progressed nicely. Browning has thrown for 1,595 yards and 10 touchdowns on 127-of-203 passing through seven games.

2. Reaching for a Thousand

Senior RB Devontae Booker means everything to Utah's offense. He's the sort of player that does a little bit of everything offensively for the Utes. Booker is closing in on a second straight 1,000-yard rushing season. He has 966 yards and nine touchdowns on 200 carries. Booker is averaging 124.2 yards per game in Pac-12 play. So far this season, he has accounted for 68 percent of Utah's total rushing yards and 40 percent of the team's combined rushing and receiving yards.

3. Switching Sides

Chase Hansen began the season pegged as Utah's quarterback of the future. The redshirt freshman could end up taking a different path after this season. Hansen has seen time at safety in recent games and is quickly showing potential to become an elite defensive playmaker. He made his first appearance at safety against Arizona State and is now No. 2 in the depth chart at strong safety behind Tevin Carter. Hansen recorded his first career sack against Oregon State. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham indicated this week that Hansen will see even more playing time on defense against Washington. Whittingham sees a bright future for Hansen if he remains on defense and said this week that Hansen, with a little extra weight, could fill a spot at linebacker in 2016 and beyond.

Final Analysis

Fans of defensive battles will love seeing this game. With both teams so evenly matched on that side of the ball, the difference will come down to which offense can be more consistent over four quarters. Utah has been more productive offensively, even while struggling with consistency at times. Washington, on the other hand, has had a difficult time putting points on the board against most defenses. This one should go down to the wire, but the Huskies will not take a bite out of Utah's Pac-12 South title hopes.

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Prediction: Utah 20, Washington 17

— 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.