Washington will be in front of their home fans this weekend, but a projected 3-point deficit forecasts there might not be much to cheer about. Their bye week comes to an end as they meet up with Utah at 4 p.m. ET at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium on Saturday. Washington won both of their matches against Utah last season (21-7 and 10-3) and is aiming for the same result this time around.
The Huskies were within striking distance but couldn’t close the gap two weeks ago as they fell 35-31 to Oregon. Washington’s defeat shouldn’t obscure the performances of RB Salvon Ahmed, who rushed for 140 yards and one TD on 24 carries, and QB Jacob Eason, who passed for 289 yards and three TDs on 30 attempts.
Meanwhile, Utah was fully in charge last week, breezing past California 35 to nothing. RB Zack Moss had a stellar game for Utah as he rushed for 115 yards and two TDs on 17 carries. QB Tyler Huntley’s longest connection was to Moss for 69 yards in the first quarter. Moss ended up with 89 receiving yards, more than he has had in any other game this season.
Utah’s victory lifted them to 7-1 while Washington’s loss dropped them down to 5-3. A couple stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: Washington enters the matchup with only three interceptions, good for 13th best in the nation. But the Utes are even better: they rank second in the league when it comes to interceptions, with only one on the season. So expect both teams to feel comfortable airing the ball out.
There’s two games in the Pac-12 this Saturday which carry heavy implications. No. 9 Utah at Washington is one of the them.
Utah is one of two teams from the conference that still has a real chance at the College Football Playoff. A win against Washington is a must to keep those hopes alive.
The Utes dropped a Friday night game to USC at the Coliseum in Week 4. They have taken care of business in their other regular season games, including notable wins over BYU, Arizona State and Washington State.
Washington has played below its standard this season, going 5-3 through eight games. The Huskies are just 2-3 in Pac-12 play, leaving their hopes to win the Pac-12 North quite slim.
Chris Peterson’s squad is 0-3 vs. Pac-12 North Division foes and 2-0 against the South Division. UW will be up for Saturday’s challenge against a tough and physical Utah team.
Despite Utah’s ranking, the Utes are just 3-point favorites on the road at Washington, which is one of the better home fields in the Pac-12.
This is one of two huge Pac-12 games this week. While the South Division favorite Utes have a tough road game up North, Oregon is making the opposite trip, heading to USC. It would be huge for the league to get two top 10 teams deep into the season, but the Huskies and Trojans will try and play spoiler this weekend.
Whittingham’s only win vs. Petersen, a 34-23 victory at Washington in 2015, came with John Pease as his defensive coordinator and Aaron Roderick as his offensive coordinator. Whittingham (127-62) has won two-thirds of his games, while going a combined 5-1 vs. nationally recognized coaches David Shaw of Stanford, Nick Saban of Alabama and Jim Harbaugh of Michigan.
Yet he’s 1-6 vs Petersen, with four straight losses to the Huskies. Whittingham’s background is defense; Petersen is an offensive guy, creating a natural matchup and an aura of respect.
Pease’s defense had four takeaways, including linebacker Gionni Paul’s fumble return for a touchdown, in Utah’s 2015 victory in Seattle. Otherwise, Petersen has owned Whittingham, unlike any other coach — although it is odd how former coaches Todd Graham of Arizona State, Rich Rodriguez of Arizona and Jim Mora of UCLA, each fired after the 2017 season, went a combined 11-7 against Whittingham.
Petersen’s teams are “very disciplined,” Whittingham said, “and the scheme he has, it’s always balanced. That’s another thing: To me, as a former defensive coordinator, it’s always harder to defend the teams that are balanced.
In his weekly news conference, Petersen said of Utah’s staff, “Those guys are doing a phenomenal job. Kyle always does. Nothing different. I think he’s playing exactly the style of football in general he’s always wanted to play, which is great defense, and tough run [-oriented] offense.”
Petersen’s Boise State and Washington teams usually beat Utah with their dynamic offenses. In 2017, for example, Taylor’s offense produced one of the best performances of his two-year Utah tenure as quarterback Tyler Huntley passed for 293 yards. But the Huskies scored 10 points in the last minute of a 33-30 victory. Last season was different, with the Huskies winning via their defense, 21-7 in September at Rice-Eccles Stadium and 10-3 in the Pac-12 championship game at Santa Clara, Calif.
Taylor didn’t have Huntley or running back Zack Moss in the title game. Their presence will help Ludwig, as he competes against Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, whose $1.4 million salary makes him easily the highest-paid assistant coach among the 10 public schools in the Pac-12 and likely the entire conference.