A rematch of last year’s Pac-12 Championship Game this week will also have major implications in who plays in this year’s conference title game, as the no. 9 Utah Utes head north to take on the Washington Huskies. Game time is at 4:00 EST on Saturday, November 2 at Husky Stadium in Seattle. The game will be broadcast nationally on Fox.
This week’s college football odds have the Utes as 3.5-point road favorites over Washington. The game also has an over/under of 47 points.
Since their late September setback against USC, the Utes have won four straight games, all in convincing fashion. On paper, Utah should have been challenged in their last two games against Arizona State and Cal. However, the Utes won and covered both games, winning by a combined score of 56-3.
With a 7-1 record and a top-10 ranking, the Utes are in the College Football Playoff picture. If they can win out and take home the Pac-12 championship, Utah will have a compelling case for a spot in the top-4. The caveat is that because of their head-to-head loss to USC, the Utes need the Trojans to lose one of their remaining Pac-12 games in order to win the Pac-12 South and play in the conference championship game for the second straight year. Of course, that only matters if the Utes take care of their own business.
The Huskies, on the other hand, have endured a disappointing 2019 season one year after winning the Pac-12 championship. Washington already has three losses in conference play, including a heartbreaking 35-31 home loss to Oregon two weeks ago in a game they led by 10 points late in the third quarter.
Any hope of repeating as Pac-12 champs went out the window after that loss to Oregon. However, the Huskies can still win 10 games if they win their four remaining regular-season games and their bowl game. That could help Washington salvage an otherwise disappointing season, as would a win over a top-10 Utah team this week.
As mentioned, these two teams met in last year’s Pac-12 Championship Game, which Washington won 10-3. The Huskies also beat the Utes in Salt Lake City 21-7 earlier in the season. In fact, the Huskies have beaten Utah four times over the last three seasons and six times since the Utes joined the Pac-12. Utah’s only win during that span came in 2015 when they won 34-23 in Seattle.
If the spread were a little lower or this were a straight-up PK, I’d probably side with Utah. But with the line greater than a field goal, I have to protect against this game being decided by a field goal. The Huskies may have lost three games this year, but they’ve been by a combined 15 points. In other words, they only lose close games. Washington is by far the biggest challenge left on Utah’s schedule and the Huskies aren’t going to be easy to beat on their home field. As much as I like Utah, I feel more comfortable taking Washington as a home underdog.
Let me begin by saying that the Utah defense is something special. They haven’t gotten the national attention they deserve, but the Utes have allowed just 20 points in their last four games. Also, no team outside of USC has managed more than 17 points against them. However, the Utah secondary was a little vulnerable in that loss to USC, giving up a few big plays against third-string quarterback Matt Fink.
Utah’s occasional lapses in the secondary worry me against Washington. Quarterback Jacob Eason has had a few ups and downs this year, but there’s no doubting that he has big-time arm talent. That was on full display two weeks ago when he completed 23 of 30 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns against a rock-solid Oregon defense.
Eason has been at his best in his last two games and played well at home this year. On top of that, he’s only thrown three interceptions and been sacked just 10 times in eight games. That means the Washington offensive line should hold up against Utah’s stellar defensive front. If Eason gets time in the pocket, the Huskies have a chance to create some big plays in the passing game and fare better against the Utah defense than most teams have this year.
On the other side of the ball, the Utah offense is a little underrated. Quarterback Tyler Huntley has taken his game to another level as a passer this year. Plus, as long as running back Zack Moss stays healthy, the Utes have a balanced and dangerous offense. But the Washington defense is no slouch. They’ve held Pac-12 opponents to an average of under 24 points per game and have had two weeks to prepare for the Utah offense.
In the end, the Utah offense isn’t quite explosive enough to turn this game into a shootout. I also think the Washington passing attack is good enough to put a dent in the Utah defense. I think the Utes have a good chance to win this game, but I’d be surprised if they won by a comfortable margin, which is why I’m taking the Huskies and the points.