Breaking down the WSU-Utah matchup. Here's what the Cougars will have to do to win on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network
No. 19 Cougars (8-2 overall, 5-2 Pac-12) vs. Utah (5-4, 2-4)
When: Saturday, Nov. 11, 2:30 p.m. PT
Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, UT
TV: Pac-12 Network
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Line: WSU (-1.5)
WSU Players to Watch
QB Luke Falk – 26 TD
WR Tavares Martin Jr. – 8 TD
RB Jamal Morrow –8 TD
DT Hercules Mata’afa – 16.5 TFL
SS Jalen Thompson – 52 tackles
Utah Players to Watch
QB Tyler Huntley – 12 TD
WR Darren Carrington – 92.2 ypg
RB Zack Moss – 82.2 ypg
PK Matt Gay – 10.1 ppg
LB Sunia Tauteoli – 10 TFL
WSU’s Keys to the Game
Win up front
Utah has traditionally been known for its physicality up front. This year, however, the Utes haven’t been very successful at getting to the quarterback – they’ve managed only 15 sacks all year. That bodes well for the Cougars if the offensive line can win the battle at the line of scrimmage and buy Luke Falk time to get things going.
Win up front on the other side too
Each of the four teams that have beaten the Utes this season has sacked Utah’s quarterbacks more times than the Utes have managed to sack theirs. The Cougars’ defense is fifth in the Pac-12 with 28 sacks and only one opposing quarterback has managed to evade WSU’s pass rush this year – Arizona’s Khalil Tate. Hercules Mata’afa, Frankie Luvu and the gang must get to Huntley and force him to make mistakes.
Keep the ball away from Carrington
Darren Carrington is the Utes’ best skill player, and if left open, can prove dangerous. He has four 100-yard receiving games this year, and might have had a fifth last week – he had 51 yards and touchdown in the first half – if he hadn’t had to sit out the second half after sustaining some sort of leg injury. He’ll challenge Darrien Molton, especially, WSU’s young cornerback Marcus Strong.
Shake off the road heebie-jeebies
The Cougs are 7-0 at home this year but 1-2 on the road. And those two road defeats haven’t been pretty. Cal pounded the Cougs 37-3, and then Tate and the Wildcats ran them ragged and ran away with a 58-37 win. The Cougs need to break this streak of road losses or their Pac-12 North title hopes will be in jeopardy. It’ll help if they don’t sleepwalk through the first quarter. The Cougs have scored only 52 first quarter points this season – that’s an average of 6.5 per game.
Prediction: WSU 35, Utah 27