Football Pick: Utah at Washington State
Utah Utes (2-1 SU, 3-0 ATS) at Washington State Cougars (3-1 SU, 4-0 ATS)
College Football Week 5
Date/Time: Saturday, September 29, 6:00PM EST
Where: Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA
TV: bPac-12 Network
By: Dave Wilson, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UTAH -1/WSU +1
Over/Under Total: OFF
Game Overview: Top Offense vs. Top Defense:
Both WSU (Pac-12 North) and Utah (Pac-12 South) are searching for their first Pac-12 victories. Each team lost their opening conference contest, and now hope to get back on track this weekend in the Palouse. WSU has the up-tempo Air-Raid Offense that averages more than 41 points per game. The Cougs are ranked 3rd in offense in the FBS while the Utes bring in a defense that is currently No. 1 in the FBS. The Utes D allows just 12.3 ppg and they kept No. 11 Washington Huskies to just 21 points although in a losing effort. The sportsbooks are giving the Utes the early favorite -1 on the road. However, as a home dog, the Cougars should be in position to spoil that line. WSU won this matchup last season 35-28 in a shootout. The keys to this contest will be timely defensive stops and the kicking game.
Washington State: Offensive Passing Machine!
No surprises here—the Cougs can score a ton of points via the air-raid attack. The statistics tell all folks—WSU QB Gardner Minshew II continues to be one of the top-rated passers in the country by slinging the pigskin to no less than eight different targets per game, in fact, seven Cougar receivers already have double digit catches on the season. 167, that’s how many points the Cougs have accrued in just four games—or 41.8 ppg. WSU ranks 3rd in the FBS for passing at 401.8 yds. per game. In addition to the air attack is the developing running game the Cougs have established in RBs Williams and Borghffi who have a balance of speed and finesse (Williams) and bull-strong quickness (Borghi). It should be another classic WSU offensive show but can the Coug’s D lock down the Utes?
Utah: Where’s the Offense?
Yes, Utah’s offense is a question mark thus far this season. Junior QB Tyler Huntley has struggled early with just four passing TDs and two INTs. The Utes tend to pass more than run but at this point they need to find any offense that works. Utah averages 21 points per game which is half of what Washington State averages. Sophomore WR Britain Covey is Huntley’s and Utah’s top receiver with 23 catches for 262 yds., and averages 11.4 yds. per catch. Utah must get the passing game on track to open the run game if they plan on matching the Cougars on the scoreboard.
The Keys to this Matchup: Defense! Defense! Field Goal Kicking
You read it right, both defenses will be a key factor in this contest. Utah has great numbers but they’ve only played one legit team—however, the Utes pass defense is good enough to give WSU fits. Utah’s rush D will be challenged by two good RBs in Jr. James Williams and true Freshman Max Borghi. The Utes gave up 143 yards rushing to RB Myles Gaskin in the loss to Washington. Meanwhile, the Cougars need to tighten up in the secondary as they’ve been burned deep several times already this season. WSU freshman kicker Blake Mazza might be the big difference in this contest. Mazza has the edge in the kicking game as he’s hit 5 of 7 field goals this season and is better from long range than his counterpart. Mazza has nailed a 50 yarder and is 2/3 from 40-49 yards out. Utes kicker, senior Matt Gay is 3/6 on the season and just 1/4 from 40 yards or more. In a game with this close of a point spread the kickers become an extremely crucial part of the process—WSU’s 71 percent FG kicking may be the key here over Utah’s 50 percent FG efforts. We like the Cougs to bounce back this week after a tough loss at USC and cover the spread at home. We like the Washington State Cougars and the points .
Wilson’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Cougars cover the spread at home. Luck to ya.