Tight end Hunter Bryant, still recovering from knee surgery when the Huskies won at Salt Lake City in September, could be an X-factor for the UW offense Friday night.
GAME DAY: Pac-12 championship
No. 10 Huskies (9-3, 7-2 Pac-12) vs. No. 17 Utah (9-3, 6-3)
5 p.m. Friday, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
TV: FOX. Radio: KOMO-AM 1000/FM-97.7
LATEST LINE: Huskies are favored by 5.5 points.
UW KEY PLAYERS
QB Jake Browning: 20 total TD, 9 INT, 151.8 rating
RB Myles Gaskin: 212 carries, 1,076 yards, 10 TD
LB Ben Burr-Kirven: 155 tackles, 2 INT, 4 TFL, 4 FF
CB Byron Murphy: 55 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 INT, 12 PBU
UTAH KEY PLAYERS
QB Jason Shelley: 723 yards passing, 3 TD, 1 INT
RB Armand Shyne: 95 carries, 442 yards, 5 TD
DE Bradlee Anae: 42 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 8 sacks
LB Chase Hansen: 101 tackles, 22 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 INT
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The Huskies will have a new wrinkle to their offense that they didn’t have in their 21-7 victory at Utah on Sept. 15. Sophomore tight end Hunter Bryant, returning from June knee surgery, made his season debut against Stanford on Nov. 3 and each week since his role in the offense has expanded. Against Stanford, he had one catch for nine yards. Against Oregon State, he had two catches for 55 yards. And in the Apple Cup, he had three catches for 108 yards, including a 59-yard reception on third-and-16 and, on the next play, his first touchdown of the season on a 22-yard double-pass from wide receiver Aaron Fuller. “It felt good just to be able to help my team and help us get this win, this is a really big win for us to help us do the things we want to do with our season,” Bryant said in Pullman. A 2017 ESPN Freshman All-American, Bryant is averaging nearly 29 yards per catch this season. “He’s as sure-handed as they come. He’s just a unique, explosive athlete,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. Until this month, the Huskies were also without preseason All-American left tackle Trey Adams, who could be in line for his first start of the season if Jared Hilbers (ankle) isn’t available Friday. (Bryant, presuming he plays in the Pac-12 title game and in UW’s bowl game, will exceed the NCAA limit of four games to be eligible for a redshirt season. But that was always a secondary consideration for a player who was never likely to stay in college for five years — and who might be tempted to enter the NFL draft after his junior season next year.)
Within a four-stay stretch in early November, Utah lost both its starting quarterback, Tyler Huntley, and its starting running back, Zack Moss, to injuries. In Huntley’s place, redshirt freshman QB Jason Shelley is 3-0 as the starter and he has not committed a turnover in his three starts. A 5-foot-11, 195-pound redshirt freshman, Shelley has rushed for 159 yards and three TDs on 42 carries this season. Shelley’s father, also Jason, played wide receiver for the Huskies in the early 1990s before being dismissed by coach Jim Lambright following multiple arrests.
JUDE’S PREDICTION: Huskies 23, Utah 16.