FACTS & STATS: Site: Rice-Eccles Stadium (45,017) — Salt Lake City, Utah.
Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: WSU 1-0, Utah 2-0. Away Record: WSU
0-2, Utah 1-0. Neutral Record: WSU 0-1, Utah 0-0. Conference Record: WSU 0-1,
Utah 0-1. Series Record: Utah leads, 7-6.
GAME NOTES: The Utah Utes will get their Pac-12 Conference schedule underway
on Saturday night when they host the Washington State Cougars at Rice-Eccles
Washington State played its league opener last weekend when it hosted No. 2
Oregon. The Cougars gave the Ducks everything they could handle but eventually
succumbed in a 38-31 decision. They are now just 1-3 on the campaign, with
their three losses coming by a combined 19 points.
Utah does not have a blemish on its record, as it has posted three straight
victories to open the campaign. After easily dispatching Idaho State (56-14)
and Fresno State (59-27) at home, the Utes hit the road and took down
Michigan, 26-10, in the Big House. The last time they started 3-0 was in 2010
when they went on to win their first eight contests.
Dominique Williams tallied 154 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions to
help Washington State claim a 49-37 win over Utah in Pullman last season. The
Utes had won three of the previous four meetings, and lead the all-time series
by a count of 7-6.
Washington State was able to keep up with the high-flying Ducks last week,
gaining 499 yards, while allowing 501. The Cougars play their own brand of
explosive offense, relying heavily on throwing the ball while putting very
little emphasis on the running game. They have run 312 plays, 240 of which
have been pass plays.
That means Connor Halliday is given quite a lot of responsibility as the
team’s starting quarterback. He has certainly produced, leading the country in
passing yards (1,901) and touchdowns (16). He has done so at an efficient
rate, completing 68.1 percent of his pass attempts, while being intercepted
only five times in 238 attempts.
Since Halliday is constantly throwing the ball, there have been plenty of
opportunities for multiple receivers. Isiah Myers (32 receptions, 451 yards,
five TDs) and Vince Mayle (32 receptions, 320 yards, three TDs) have made the
most of their chances, leading the team in receptions. River Cracraft (23
receptions, 278 yards, three TDs) and Williams (15 receptions, 316 yards, four
TDs) are also productive playmakers.
There are far fewer options when it comes to running the ball, but there
doesn’t have to be. Royce Freeman has 120 yards for a squad that has just 183
Where the most work needs to be done is on defense, as the Cougars are
permitting 31 points and 420.8 yards per game. They are currently last in the
Pac-12 in scoring defense. Luckily they have racked up 11 sacks and
accumulated 27 tackles for loss.
Kache Palacio (4.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks) and Xavier Cooper (5.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks) have
been the most aggressive when it comes to getting into the backfield.
Even though they only scored 26 points against Michigan, the Utes have been a
finely-tuned machine on offense through the first three games. They are
averaging 47 points and 467 yards per game. They are tied for second in
scoring and sit alone in sixth in total offense among Pac-12 squads. Against
Michigan those numbers were less explosive, with Utah managing only 286 total
Travis Wilson should be back under center this weekend after suffering a
frightening hit against the Wolverines. Wilson was attempting to dive over a
defender and instead was flipped onto his head out of bounds. Wilson is the
key to Utah’s offensive success as he has thrown for 618 yards and seven
touchdowns on 65.5 percent efficiency. More importantly, he has yet to be
Dres Anderson (13 receptions, 252 yards, three TDs) is another key component
to the attack with his ability to break off big plays through the air. He is
averaging 84 receiving yards per game, which is the seventh-best mark in the
Pac-12. Kenneth Scott (14 receptions, 155 yards, three TDs) leads the team in
Utah is a more balanced offensive team than Washington State, with 577 yards
rushing as a unit. Devontae Booker (179 yards, two TDs) leads the team in
carries and yards, but Bubba Poole (136 yards, TD) had a team-high 40 yards
Utah’s defense has been rock solid no matter who the opponent, as the Utes are
allowing only 17 points and 327.7 yards per game. They are only letting teams
rush for 2.9 yards per carry, which might be good news for the Cougars, who
won’t be running much anyway.
Nate Orchard is a force to be reckoned with up front, as he leads the Utes in
both tackles for a loss (5.0) and sacks (4.5).
The Cougars are much better than their 1-3 record would have you believe.
However, Utah has proven it can win in hostile environments and at home by
leaning on its stout defense. WSU may not be able to move through the air as
easily this week.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah 28, Washington State 21