Utes look to end regular season with three straight wins whey they host the rusty Cougars
The Utes (2-2, 2-2 Pac-12) shined on offense against Colorado last weekend, piling up a season-high 432 yards on their way to knocking off the Buffaloes 38-21. Utah scored 28 unanswered points in the second half to rally from an 11-point deficit. The Utes had four touchdown drives covering 60 yards or longer and held the ball for 36 minutes.
The Cougars (1-2, 1-2) get back into action after having their game against California canceled a few hours before kickoff last weekend. Washington State has played just once since mid-November, a 38-13 loss to USC two weeks ago. The Cougars showed plenty of rust against the Trojans, totaling only 263 yards despite possessing the ball for 35 minutes.
Washington State leads the series 9-8. Utah prevailed a year ago, beating the Cougars 38-13 in a game where they recorded 12 pass breakups.
Washington State at Utah
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 19 at 1:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Utah -10.5
When Washington State Has the Ball
Not much went right for the Cougars on either side of the ball against USC. Washington State allowed Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis to throw five touchdown passes before halftime and build up a 35-0 lead midway through the second quarter. On the flip side, the Cougars coughed up three turnovers and were held to 73 rushing yards.
True freshman quarterback Jayden de Laura had an erratic performance against USC. He threw for 134 yards and tossed a pair of interceptions through three quarters before finally getting benched. Gunner Cruz and Cammon Cooper split time in the fourth quarter against the Trojans. Washington State isn't ready to give up on de Laura after one bad game. He threw for 548 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception over his first two games against Oregon and Oregon State.
Consistency in the passing game will be important since running the ball against Utah will be next to impossible. Deon McIntosh is capable of a big game. McIntosh only had 10 carries against USC, but he averaged 6.5 yards when he got an opportunity. If he can produce a few big runs here and there, it should give Washington State enough breathing room to get things going in the passing game early.
When Utah Has the Ball
Ty Jordan is already showing potential to become Utah's most dominant running back yet. That seems like a bold statement on the surface when you consider past stars like Zack Moss and Devontae Booker. Jordan has earned the benefit of the doubt, though, given just how fast he has exploded onto the scene for the Utes.
Jordan put together his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game to help rally Utah past Colorado. The true freshman ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 8.6 yards per carry. His second TD – a 66-yard burst down the middle – helped seal the Utes' comeback victory late in the fourth quarter. Jordan leads Utah with 536 all-purpose yards in four games and his 110.8 rushing yards per game is first among all freshmen in FBS.
Jake Bentley also has taken a step forward in leading the offense. Bentley had his best game at quarterback to date against the Buffaloes, finishing with season-highs in completions (20) and passing yards (240). More importantly, Bentley took care of the ball and did not endure a flurry of turnovers that plagued him in previous games.
Britain Covey also looked like his old dynamic self against Colorado. Covey finished with a team-high 210 all-purpose yards that included a career-high nine receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown. The redshirt junior also totaled 132 return yards on a combined six kickoff and punt returns.
Utah is finding a rhythm on offense at the right time. The Utes are also making strides as a defense, shutting down running backs and forcing turnovers at will. Washington State always makes things interesting with its potent offense, but the Cougars are hardly invincible on that side of the ball these days. The guess is that the combination of Ty Jordan and Britain Covey will have big days again, Washington State will have a tough time shaking off the rust, and Utah will end its 2020 season on a high note.
Prediction: Utah 31, Washington State 21
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— 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.