Utah State brings an unconventional 3-4 defense into Saturday’s game at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium (2 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
The Huskies should win this game at home. And I think they will.
But it’s not going to be easy.
Utah State brings an unconventional 3-4 defense into Saturday’s game at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium (2 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) and at every chance they get the Aggies figure to bring pressure on UW freshman quarterback Jake Browning.
“They are going to come after you,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “That’s what they do.”
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The Aggies, ranked 15th nationally in total defense, are adept at disguising their defensive pressures. They might show pressure from one edge and then actually bring it from the other side, and they have an experienced front seven (five seniors and two juniors) to carry out their deception.
For Browning and UW’s rebuilt offensive line, dissecting those defensive fronts will present another new challenge, an important hurdle in their development. The matchup has a lot of similarities to what the Huskies faced at Boise State, and this will be a good measure of how much the Huskies’ line has improved in two weeks.
Of course, as with any game plan, the Huskies hope to alleviate all that pressure by avoiding third-and-long situations. To do that, they’ll need to run the ball effectively — but that’s no sure bet against a Utah State defense that allowed just 3.28 yards per carry in 2014, tied with UW for 14th-best in the nation.
Last week, in a 24-14 loss at No. 24 Utah, the Aggies allowed 195 yards on the ground, 120 of that to Devontae Booker, perhaps the Pac-12’s best back. And he needed 31 carries (3.9 ypc) to do that.
The Huskies’ defense has proved stout early on too, having allowed just the 16 points at Boise and shutting out Sacramento State. The Huskies’ ability to make Utah State’s veteran QB, Chuckie Keeton, uncomfortable will be key. Utah State will also benefit from the return of senior WR Hunter Sharp, who was suspended for the first two games of the season.
On both sides, expect a defensive showcase Saturday afternoon.
Prediction: Huskies 23, Utah State 16.
How do you see it playing out?