Utah (4-5) at Washington (5-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 10, 10:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: CenturyLink Field (57,583) -- Seattle, Washington. Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: Utah 4-1, Washington 4-1. Away Record: Utah 0-4, Washington 1-3. Neutral Record: Utah 0-0, Washington 0-0. Conference Record: Utah 2-4, Washington 3-3 Series Record: Washington leads 7-0.
GAME NOTES: For the final time this season the Washington Huskies will play at home, when the Utah Utes, who are looking to extend a season-long winning streak, come to CenturyLink Field for a Pac-12 conference matchup.
A 49-6 rout of Washington State last weekend gave Utah back-to-back wins for the first time this season. The Utes have scored 98 combined points in the those two wins after managing only 56 in the previous four games, all losses. What has helped Utah is playing at home where the Utes are 4-1 this season. However on the road, as Utah is in this game, things have gone much less smoothly with the Utes winless in four tries. Overall Utah is 4-5 and 2-4 in league play with three games remaining on the schedule.
Washington is also enjoying a two-game win streak entering play. It is the second time the Huskies have won consecutive games this season. The Huskies recorded their first win on the road this season last week with a 21-13 victory over California. Returning home to CenturyLink Field is even better news for the Huskies who are 4-1 at home this season, including upset wins over nationally-ranked opponents Stanford and Oregon State. Washington has split its six conference games and will play its final two games on the road including an in-state rivalry game against Washington State.
Parity has not been a word that would describe the series between these two squads, which became conference foes for the first time last season with Utah's entrance to the Pac-12. Washington is a perfect 7-0 against Utah including a 31-14 win in the Utes' inaugural Pac-12 season. Before last year's contest the two had not faced off since 1979.
John White is back. The Utah running back that finished with more than 1,500 rushing yards last season had been less than effective most of this season but has gotten back to form after posting his third 100-yard rushing game last week with 101 yards on 18 carries. It was also the second straight week in which he had reached the century mark on the ground. White also scored three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) for just the second time in his career. White's success has had a direct correlation to the success of the team in general with the Utes 11-0 when White rushes for 100 yards.
Getting the running game going could greatly benefit Utah down the stretch, as the Utes seek their 10th straight bowl appearance. Even after the win last weekend the Utes are ranked second to last in the conference, averaging 324.4 yards per game.
It is difficult to create much consistency, when there is a revolving door at quarterback. After Jordan Wynn stepped down early in the season it has been a two-horse race between Jon Hays and Travis Wilson. It was Wilson who got the start last week, completing 17-of-21 passes for 171 yards, two scores and an interception. It is likely that Wilson (68.1 completion percentage, 817 yards, 4 TDs, 5 INTs) will get the start again, but Hays (60.6 completion percentage, 653 yards, 7 TDs, 2 INTs) will still probably take some snaps.
Having yet to establish a go-to receiver has doomed the passing game as well. Jake Murphy leads the team by a slim margin in receptions (29), yards (304) and touchdowns (3). Those numbers are not much better than the efforts of Dres Anderson (27 receptions, 258 yards, 2 TDs) and Kenneth Scott (21 receptions, 283 yards, 3 TDs).
Although the Cougars are the worst rushing team in the nation, the Utes minus- four rushing yards allowed was still a tremendous defensive effort. It was the fifth fewest rushing yards ever allowed by a Utah defense.
Strong defensive efforts have not been a rare occurrence for Utah this season with the Utes ranked third in the conference in total defense (336.2 ypg). Some of that success has come from Utah's knack for knocking the ball out of opponents hands, with the team's 25 forced fumbles and 10 recoveries the top marks in the conference.
Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei has been the most effective in forcing those types of mistakes with a team-high three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Lotulelei has also been disruptive in other ways with 8.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. Lead tackler Trevor Reilly (50 tackles. 4.5 sacks) and Joe Kruger (5.0 sacks) help to give Utah a strong front seven.
There are offensive weapons aplenty for Washington this season, but the trick has been getting effective performances week-in and week-out. Last week was certainly and 'in' week with Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Bishop Sankey both erupting for huge games. Seferian-Jenkins, a 6-6 tight end, that is a matchup nightmare for opposing secondaries, hauled in eight passes for 152 yards and a touchdown. Seferian-Jenkins (48 receptions, 630 yards, 4 TDs) is now the team's leader in receiving yards. Kasen Williams (49 receptions, 547 yards, 4 TDs) has made his share of plays as well.
Sankey was the backup on the roster heading into the season but when Jessee Callier was lost for the season with a knee injury early in the season he was promoted. When Sankey has turned in performances like he did last weekend (189 yards, two touchdowns) the change has gone off without a hitch. On the season he has put up 855 yards and 11 touchdowns, while averaging a healthy 95 yards per game.
Where there has been the least amount of consistency has been at quarterback. Keith Price had a phenomenal sophomore season but has struggled in his junior year. Price has completed 59.6 percent of his passes, for 1,765 yards and nine touchdowns. Those numbers are way down from last season (66.9 completion percentage, 3,063 yards, 33 touchdowns) but what is most alarming is Price's 10 interceptions. Price was intercepted once again last weekend and needs to cut down on those types of mistakes if Washington is going to succeed in its push for the postseason.
Talented cornerback Desmond Trufant is questionable for the Huskies this weekend with a hamstring issue. Losing Trufant will put even more pressure on players like Shaq Thompson (51 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2 INTs) and leading tackler Sean Parker (53) to keep the Utah receivers locked down. Losing a key defensive contributor in the secondary would be even more devastating for a Washington defense that is ranked second in the conference against the pass (201.2 ypg).
With Utah likely to run the ball more than throw it, Washington may be able to avoid a big step backward if Trufant isn't ready to go depending on the play up front by players like John Timu (52 tackles) and Andrew Hudson (3.5 sacks). Thompson, who leads the team in tackles for loss (6.5), could also be an integral part of keeping White from running all over CenturyLink Field.
This matchup is the perfect storm of a team that struggles on the road versus a team that has shown no fear, or real weakness on its home turf. Washington has already taken down Stanford and Oregon State at CenturyLink and even with Utah seemingly turning its season around at the moment, the Huskies will be able to keep their success at home going.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Washington 26, Utah 20
11/07 10:39:03 ET