Utah (0-1) at Washington (2-0)
4:30 p.m. Saturday, Husky Stadium
TV: ABC. Radio: SportsRadio 950 KJR.
Latest line: Huskies by 7 points.
UW key players
QB Dylan Morris: 371 passing yards, 59.2% completions, 2 TD, 0 INT, 21 rushing yards
TE Cade Otton: 8 catches, 104 yards, 13.0 yards per catch, 1 TD
LB Edefuan Ulofoshio: 15 tackles, 4 pass breakups, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, 1 forced fumble
OLB Zion Tupuola-Fetui: 7 tackles, 4 TFL, 4 sacks, 2 FF, 1 PBU
Utah key players
QB Jake Bentley: 171 passing yards, 57.1% completions, 1 TD, 2 INT, 24 rushing yards
WR Samson Nacua: 3 catches, 29 yards, 1 TD
LB Devin Lloyd: 11 tackles, 2 TFL
LB Nephi Sewell: 10 tackles, 2 TFL
Run the damn ball?
Washington wants you to think this is a different offense — bigger and more physical under first-year coordinator John Donovan. And maybe that’s true. But now’s the time to prove it. Through two games, the Huskies are averaging 250 rushing yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry — which ranks 10th and 21st nationally, respectively. They have a massive offensive line and four relentlessly fresh running backs. But don’t forget, in the 33-28 home defeat last season against Utah, UW managed just 53 rushing yards and 2.4 yards per carry. The Huskies were the less physical team, especially down the stretch. Of course, Dylan Morris will have to do his part. But we’ll see if a bigger, more physical UW offense can bully the Utes.
Deleting the drops
The good news is that Washington has no shortage of young, talented wide receivers. The bad news is, so far, they’ve struggled to consistently catch the ball. In particular, true freshmen Jalen McMillan and Rome Odunze have had opportunities for explosive plays go awry in recent weeks. “Maybe I’m a hard grader. We can still get a lot better,” UW head coach Jimmy Lake said following the 44-27 victory last week over Arizona, when asked about the wide receiver play. “I know that, and they know that. We can get a lot better. We have so much juice and so many play-makers — because I see it in practice, like I keep telling you guys. I see them go against our guys. We still need to play a lot better at that position.”
An unexpected opponent
What happens when Lake, Donovan and defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski have less than a week’s notice to game plan for an opponent? When the Apple Cup suddenly vanishes into thin air? When a team is forced to practice for several days without knowing who they’ll play? When the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on their schedule? Well, we’re about to find out. And to this point, the Huskies have adjusted admirably to the unprecedented challenges placed in their path. They prepared for four separate season openers, and won the one they played. They’ve been adaptable and impressive. But have they really been challenged? Saturday, the team that adapts to those challenges best will most likely win.
This isn’t the same Utah team that won last season in Seattle. Seven Utes were selected in the 2020 NFL draft, and they’re significantly less experienced at the offensive skill positions and in the defensive secondary. Oh, and their chosen starting quarterback — Cameron Rising — is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Utah was forced to cancel two games with COVID-19 concerns and it’s unclear just how healthy Kyle Whittingham’s team is entering the weekend. In other words: the Huskies are more talented, they’re deeper and they should be more prepared to play. If their early success wasn’t a mirage against a pair of Pac-12 bottom-dwellers, UW should be able to prove that fact in emphatic fashion Saturday.
Final score: Huskies 31, Utes 20