Washington rolls into Salt Lake looking to make a statement against the Utes
After opening the season ranked at #14, people questioned whether Washington deserved that ranking. Overrated was a term that was thrown around a bit, with many people citing a lack of resume.
After a relatively easy non-conference schedule, and handling Pac-12 underachievers with ease (looking at you Stanford), there are still murmurs about being ranked too high.
This coming Saturday though, we’ll have more clarity of whether the ranking is justified or a byproduct of an easy schedule.
Disclaimer: I absolutely think Washington is a great team this season, and they deserve what they’ve gotten. But don’t forget, this time last year the Utes were ranked #3 in the nation after dismantling Oregon.
We’ll see this weekend how these two teams stack up. Here are a few key things to watch for on Saturday.
Battle of the first half
A stat pointed out by coach Whittingham this week caught my attention… Washington is outscoring opponents 220-26 in first halves this season. TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY TO TWENTY SIX.
The Huskies let off the gas in the second half, leaving the scoring margin a bit closer there. But they win games by jumping on opponents quickly and it will be critical for Utah to stay close early.
War in the trenches
A week ago every time Troy Williams dropped to pass, it seemed the UCLA pass rush was in his face. The offensive line played great in the run game, but couldn’t protect their quarterback.
Against a Washington D-line that has the most sacks in the Pac-12 this season, the Utes need better protection to give Williams time to make plays.
As mentioned here, Joe Mathis status is uncertain, which would be huge given that he leads the team in sacks. Whether he plays or not, the Utah offensive line will have its hands full all day.
Slowing down a star
Jake Browning is a monster. This season he’s evolved into an under the radar Heisman candidate, and has been one of the primary reasons this squad is 7-0.
Completing nearly 69% of his passes, he has thrown 26 touchdowns through seven games and only two interceptions. That’s incredibly efficient, and the Utah secondary will have to play top-notch to keep him in check.
I’ve mentioned it numerous times, but last week this Utes defense couldn’t stop UCLA from passing the ball. With all due respect, Browning is more talented than Fafaul. He knows where and when to throw the ball, something that helps cut out most mistakes.
It will take a team effort, from both the D-line getting pressure, and the secondary covering better than a week ago to keep this game within striking distance.
The homer in me wants so badly (SO BADLY) to take the Utes to win this game.. But Washington has too much talent everywhere and the Utes aren’t healthy enough.
I like to think the Utes will keep it close, but in the end Washington has too much firepower to handle. Regardless, this will be a fun game that will come down to one or two plays.