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Utah vs. Washington State Prediction: Utes Take on the Cougars in Pac-12 After Dark Action on Thursday

Utah looking for fourth straight win over Wazzu.
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Will Utah stay in the Pac-12 title chase after it visits Washington State on Thursday night?

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 9

The No. 14 Utes (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) enjoyed a bye week after rallying for a dramatic 43-42 victory over USC to keep their bid to repeat as league champions alive. Utah trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half before Cameron Rising punched in a go-ahead touchdown and two-point run with 48 seconds left. The Utes racked up 562 yards and 31 first downs while averaging 7.3 yards per play against the Trojans. Utah scored touchdowns on five of its final six drives in the game.

A bye week couldn't have come at a better time for the Cougars. Washington State (4-3, 1-3) is struggling, having lost three of its last four games while regressing offensively with each loss. A slow start on offense doomed the Cougars in a 24-10 setback against Oregon State two weeks ago. Washington State generated a single yard on six offensive plays in the first quarter and averaged only 5.0 yards per play for the entire game.

Utah leads the all-time series 10-9 and has a three-game winning streak over Washington State. The Cougars haven't lost to the Utes at home since 2011.

No. 14 Utah at Washington State

Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 27 at 10 p.m. ET
TV: FS1
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Utah -7.5
Tickets: As low as $9 on SITickets.com*

When Utah Has the Ball

What will Rising do for an encore? The junior is coming off the finest performance of his career. He threw for a career-high 415 yards and two touchdowns against USC while completing a career-best 30 passes on 44 attempts. It was the first 400-yard game for a Utah quarterback since Brian Johnson piled up 417 yards against San Diego State in 2005. Rising enters this week with 4,393 career passing yards, becoming the fourth active Pac-12 quarterback with more than 4,000.

Rising wasn't alone in having a career-best performance against USC. Dalton Kincaid piled up 234 yards and a touchdown on 16 catches against the Trojans. Only one Utah receiver, Carl Harry in 1988 against Idaho State, finished with more receiving yards in a single game than Kincaid. It's one more highlight in a banner year for the senior tight end. Kincaid leads Utah with 558 receiving yards — the most by any FBS tight end. He has a team-high 39 receptions for the Utes and is averaging 14.3 yards per reception.

Rising has been Utah's biggest consistent running threat over the past few games, which is unusual for a program with a strong running back tradition. Tavion Thomas has seen his role in the offense fluctuate since racking up 115 yards on the ground in the season opener against Florida. Thomas has tallied 132 yards and one touchdown on 32 carries over his last three games.

When Washington State Has the Ball

Cameron Ward fits the mold of past gunslingers who ran the Washington State offense dating back to the Mike Leach era. The transfer from FCS Incarnate Word enters the week ranked second in the Pac-12 in pass completions (175) and passing efficiency (280.3). Ward has thrown for at least 300 yards in three of his last four games and needs only 38 yards on Thursday to reach 2,000 passing yards for the season. Still, he struggled with accuracy against Oregon State. Ward racked up 354 passing yards but completed only 46 percent of his career-high 54 pass attempts.

Robert Ferrel had his first 100-yard receiving game at Washington State against Oregon State, tallying 131 yards on five catches. Ferrel is one of three Cougar receivers — along with De'Zhaun Stribling and Donovan Ollie — with at least 300 receiving yards this season. Renard Bell also is closing in on that mark. Washington State will need big games from one or more of the foursome to help keep Utah's defense honest.

The Cougars aren't doing much on the ground. Washington State averages just 89 rushing yards per game, which ranks last among Pac-12 teams by a wide margin. Jaylen Jenkins seemingly had a breakout game against USC where he ran for 130 yards on 13 carries. But Jenkins only had six rushing attempts against Oregon State, finishing with 42 yards, as Washington State essentially abandoned the running game against the Beavers.

Final Analysis

Utah will be playing its 100th game as a member of the Pac-12 on Thursday. The Utes have a shot at helping Kyle Whittingham get his 150th career victory as head coach. Odds are favorable for reaching that milestone. Utah's offense is pure dynamite at the moment. Washington State is struggling to find answers on that side of the ball after back-to-back mediocre performances. The Utes should be able to extend their series winning streak to four games without too much trouble.

Prediction: Utah 35, Washington State 20

Podcast: Complete Week 9 Preview, Predictions, and Picks Against the Spread

Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sports journalist based in Utah. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.

*Price as of publication.