No. 22 Huskies (2-1) at BYU (2-1)
12:30 p.m. Saturday, LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah
TV: ABC. Radio: KOMO-AM 1000/FM-97.7
Latest line: Huskies by 6½ points.
UW key players
QB Jacob Eason: 69.2 percent completions, 773 passing yards, 7 TD, 1 INT
RB Richard Newton: 162 rushing yards, 5.6 yards per carry, 4 TD
LB Kyler Manu: 17 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 pass breakup
S Myles Bryant: 15 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 TFL, 1 sack
BYU key players
QB Zach Wilson: 63.2 percent completions, 720 passing yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 1 rush TD
RB Ty’Son Williams: 236 rushing yards, 5.5 YPC, 3 TD
LB Kavika Fonua: 30 tackles, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble, 1 TFL, 1 pass breakup
DL Lorenzo Fauatea: 10 tackles, 1 FF, 1 TFL, 1 sack
Establishing the run
The Huskies have rushed for a healthy 576 yards, 4.8 yards per carry and seven touchdowns through three games. They also tout an experienced offensive line and three running backs — Salvon Ahmed, Richard Newton and Sean McGrew — who have entered the end zone and are averaging at least 5.6 yards per rush. There should be ample opportunities for all three running backs against a BYU defense that has ranked 119th nationally in rushing defense (225 yards per game) and 101st in opponent yards per carry (4.75) in its first three games (albeit against three Power 5 opponents in Utah, Tennessee and USC). If UW truly feels like it can set the tone and run the ball against anybody, now is the time to do it. A productive rushing threat will also open up play-action opportunities for junior quarterback Jacob Eason.
Wearing down Williams
On the other side, 220-pound running back Ty’Son Williams is the focal point of BYU’s offense. The South Carolina transfer has stacked up 236 rushing yards, 5.5 yards per carry and three touchdowns thus far. Several Washington defensive players this week compared Williams to 230-pound Cal running back Christopher Brown Jr., who stacked up 110 total yards and averaged five yards per carry two weeks ago. The UW defense failed the test then. To pass it on Saturday, the Huskies need to be assignment correct and swarm to the football. In other words, they need to prioritize stopping the run and make BYU quarterback Zach Wilson beat them. The sophomore quarterback has thrown for just two touchdowns and two interceptions in three games.
Take the ball away
Washington’s defense finally found some momentum in the turnover department last weekend, claiming three interceptions in a fairly dominant 52-20 win over Hawaii. But let’s consider the situation prior to those picks. Entering the third game of the season, senior safety Myles Bryant had picked up one career interception. The Huskies’ remaining secondary starters — cornerbacks Keith Taylor and Kyler Gordon, nickelback Elijah Molden and safety Cameron Williams — owned a grand total of zero. So, even considering the Hawaii win, this group still has something to prove. On the road, in a hostile environment, forcing a turnover or two will go a long way towards silencing the rowdy Cougar crowd. If the Huskies can stop the run, then claim a couple interceptions, they’ll leave Provo, Utah, with a win.
You know those keys you just read? UW will address them on Saturday. Washington will be able to run the ball with Ahmed, Newton and McGrew. Eason will protect the ball and make a couple big plays. The Huskies will slow Williams (enough) and a key interception will swing the game in the second half. When you wash away the insignificant details, Washington is the better and more talented team. As long as the Huskies don’t cave under the weight of the road crowd, they’ll secure their second consecutive win.
Prediction: Huskies 27, Cougars 17