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Utes game day Primer – Utah vs Washington

You would have to rewind nearly five years to find the last time a Ute team sent a top-10 opponent packing after a loss in Rice-Eccles Stadium. The stage is set for Utah to change that this weekend. 

A familiar foe in No. 10 Washington visits Salt Lake City tonight and all eyes will be on RES for what is the Pac-12’s premier matchup of week 3. 

How they’ve fared so far…

The Utes enter the Saturday tilt 2-0, but the sense around the program — and publicly — is that they haven’t quite hit their stride. 

Utah has been solid statistically, but a multitude of turnovers, drops, and mishaps have put a damper on their overall play. They lost the turnover battle 4-0 to Weber State and only put up 17 points against a, albeit tough, lower-level opponent in NIU. It feels like nitpicking to look for the negatives of an undefeated team who’s defense tops the country, but the reality is that the Utes will need an uptick in offensive execution to beat Washington and compete in the Pac-12. 

The 1-1 Huskies enter Saturday after a 45-3 bounce back win over North Dakota, but a week one matchup with possible playoff contender Auburn probably showed us a little more of what they will bring to the table. Much like the Utes, Washington has underwhelmed at parts early on this season. The Huskies shorthanded offensive line hasn’t played up-to-par so far, effecting QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin’s production. Things don’t get easier for the UW offense as they face the top-ranked defense in college football. 

Keep an eye on…

  • Looking for redemption from last season’s late-game debacle, the Utes will look to revisit the same strategies that have worked for them against the Huskies in years past. Utah will put a lot of defensive backs on the field to close down the passing lanes for Jake Browning. The Utes have had some success pressuring Browning as well, so expect a few more blitz packages than we’ve seen from Morgan Scalley thus far in 2018. 

 

  • Zack Moss has 32 carries through two games. If I had any say, that number would be nearly doubled. Kyle Whittingham and Troy Taylor have both acknowledged that he needs to see more touches and, against a tough pass defense in UW, that ought to be the case. 

 

  • Washington preseason All-American left tackle Trey Adams will miss the season after undergoing back surgery last week. Being absent your top offensive lineman isn’t ideal when visiting Rice-Eccles Stadium on a Saturday night. The Huskies have been working on filling the void with Adams out but have been largely unsuccessful so far. They’ll have to figure something out on the line-of-scrimmage to avoid this becoming a storyline.

 

  • In the Utes most recent win over UW, Britain Covey caught 5 passes for 69 yards to lead Utah as a freshman All-American. Fresh off his two year hiatus, Covey has been the Utes most consistent threat through the air. Utah will surely rely on his playmaking against a stout Washington defense. 

 

  • Utah has struggled in the trenches early on in 2018-19, but that’s something OL coach Jim Harding hasn’t had problems with correcting in the past. Underclassmen Nick Ford and Orlando Umana have been splitting snaps at left guard, an experiment that has seen flashes of their potential but not consistent production. How that position is handled moving forward will be something to keep an eye on. 

 

  • The Utes have uncharacteristically been on the losing end of the turnover battle in 2018-19, but will hope to turn that around against a pass happy UW squad. Jake Browning has thrown three interceptions through two games, something the Utes plan on expanding upon.
  • With guys like Myles Gaskin and Ty Jones, UW doesn’t lack offensive weaponry. Jones returns to his hometown in week three of his college career, a career that is off to a hot start. Gaskin has had the Utes number, notching 151 yards in 2016 and finding the end zone twice in 2017. 

 

  • Each team has a talented receiving core and NFL-caliber secondary. The margin of error for both Huntley and Browning will be razor-thin, but a gamebreakinig play or two may very well be the difference in this one. 

 

  • Utah and Washington, respectively, are stout up front. Their defensive lines clog up running lanes and their instinctive linebackers clean up behind. Offenses on both sides will need to execute far better than they have so far this season. 

 

  • Special teams have played an integral role in UW – Utah matchups in the past, highlighted by 2016 when Dante Pettis returned a punt for the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The Utes have made some uncharacteristic blunders in special teams play thus far in 2018, something that can’t happen if they want to win tonight. 

What we think….

Porter Larsen – UTAH 21 – 13 UW

Bill Riley – UTAH 23 – 17 UW

Kyle Gunther – UTAH 24 – 21 UW

Ben Anderson – UTAH 27 – 24 UW

JP Chunga – UTAH 3 – 30 UW

Follow along….

Watch: Following the Alabama and Ole Miss matchup, Huskies vs Utes kicks off at 8p.m. on ESPN and the WatchESPN app.

Listen: Game day coverage lasts all day long on ESPN700.


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