NCAA Saturday Night Football: Utah/Washington Preview

by Alec McMordie

The Saturday night game on ABC involved a rescheduled game on the fly this week with COVID issues impacting both teams. The annual Apple Cup showdown between Washington and Washington State got canceled due to a COVID outbreak in the Cougars’ program. Utah then had their game with Arizona State postponed on Tuesday, given COVID issues with the Sun Devils. The Pac-12 arranged for these two teams to meet with ABC deciding to pick up the game.

Utah has already had their games, with Arizona and UCLA, postponed this season due to COVID. The Utes played their first game of the season last Saturday in a 31-17 upset loss at home to USC as a 1-point favorite. Utah has been outscored by at least two touchdowns and a 106-42 margin in their last three contests.

Kyle Whittingham had his program in a position to play in the college football playoff last season for the Pac-12 championship game with an 11-1 record. But Utah was throttled in that game by a 37-15 score to Oregon. Whittingham then took his 11-2 winning record in bowl games into the Alamo Bowl, but his team appeared to have lost their spirit as they were blown out by a 38-10 score to Texas. Whittingham went into the offseason having to replace quarterback Tyler Huntley, running back Zack Moss, and nine starters on a defense that was second in the nation by holding their opponents to just 269.2 yards-per-game.

Nine starters returned for Whittingham in his 16th season with the program. He also had two new transfers at quarterback. Cameron Rising, coming over from Texas, won the job in the fall. Yet after completing 3 of 6 passes for 45 yards in the first quarter last week, the redshirt sophomore suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in his third drive with the team. Senior Jake Bentley, a transfer from South Carolina, took over to complete 16 of 28 passes for 171 yards. Bentley will take over as the starting quarterback moving forward. Utah turned the ball over five times against the Trojans, with Bentley and Rising combining for three interceptions. The Utes’ defense did recover a fumble, which they returned for a 32-yard touchdown. Despite the 14-point loss, Utah was only outgained by a 357-327 margin.

Washington won their first two games under rookie head coach Jimmy Lake after their 44-27 victory at home over Arizona last week. The final score is not indicative of the domination effort for the Huskies, who had a 37-0 lead in the fourth quarter before the Wildcats scored their 27 points in garbage time. Washington outgained Arizona by a 472-331 margin while being on offense for more than 37 minutes of that game.

The Huskies won their opening game of the season at home against Oregon State by a 27-21 score. It has been a good start for Lake, who served as the defensive coordinator for former head coach Chris Pederson before his surprise retirement last fall. Twelve starters return from the group that finished a disappointing 8-5 after a subpar 4-5 mark in the Pac-12. Washington did send Pederson out a winner with their 38-7 victory against his former team in Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

The Huskies defense has eight starters back from the unit that was 35th in the nation by allowing 348.6 yards-per-game. Washington has improved on that number in their first two games as those opponents have averaged only 291.5 yards-per-game. Lake tapped redshirt freshman Dylan Morris has his starting quarterback to replace Jacob Eason under center. Morris completed 15 of 25 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns and without an interception in an efficient effort against the Wildcats last week.

Utah defeated Washington in Husky Stadium by a 33-28 score last year. BetAnySports lists the Huskies as a 7-point favorite tonight, with the total set at 47.5. The ABC broadcast starts at 7:30 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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