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Washington Huskies vs. Utah Utes Pick & Prediction

by | Last updated Sep 14, 2018 | cfb

Washington Huskies (1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS) vs. Utah Utes (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS)
College Football Week 3
Date and Time: Saturday, September 15, 2018 at 10PM EDT
Where: Rice Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah
By: Loot Levinson, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: WASH -6.5/UTAH +6.5
Over/Under Total: 47

The Washington Huskies make the trip to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Utes on Saturday, as both teams open their Pac-12 Conference schedules. Last season’s matchup between these two teams turned out to be a doozy (what am I, 90 years old?), as a Washington FG with time running out gave them the 33-30 win in Seattle. This season’s pairing figures to be another competitive affair.

Utah has started the season with success, beginning with a perfunctory win over Weber State in week one, followed by a trickier week-two road matchup against Northern Illinois, where they won 17-6. They will like being back in their element at home this week in a conference context. Their opponent, however, is one that has gotten the measure of them the last few seasons, albeit not by a lot. Washington, identified by some in the preseason as a championship contender, fell a bit flat in a very difficult opening week road spot against a ranked SEC team in Auburn, losing 21-16. They followed that with a 45-3 win over FCS foe North Dakota on Saturday. But they will be eager to score a more-meaningful win this week to kick off their conference schedule and air out the stink from week one, as they start building their case.

Don’t Sleep on the Huskies
Sure, it would have been nice if they had beaten Auburn in week one. They came close, but anyone writing them off or low-rating them on the basis of that could be on the wrong track. At the end of the day, you have a heck of a team in the Huskies, led by a senior QB in Jake Browning, a guy where it only seems that he’s been on the team for a decade. Accompanying him is a lot of familiar faces—running back Myles Gaskin, RB Salvon Ahmed, and even returning WR Chico McClatcher. Browning’s line is top-notch.

The Huskies defense may not have been very clutch in week one with the late score by Auburn breaking a fourth-quarter tie. Still, there is no appreciable evidence that this defense is a diminished unit from last season’s group. This was the part of their team that had so many people excited about their prospects this season. The secondary has become a factory of solid DBs as of late. And this year’s unit looks tip-top. Time will tell if they can reproduce last season’s performance, where Utah’s 30 points was the most they allowed in the whole regular season.

Is Utah for Real?
Kyle Whittingham enters his 14th season at the helm at Utah and deserves credit for making them a respectable force in a difficult conference. They were in the Mountain West when he took over and now, no one is laughing anymore at the notion of them in the Pac-12. However, after winning 28 games from 2014-16 with 16 conference wins, they sunk to 7-6 last season with a 3-6 conference record. They are hoping for an upswing this season and initial signs aren’t bad.

There are some good pieces in place for Utah to shrug off last season and become more a conference factor in 2018. The offense is better in the hands of a healthy QB Tyler Huntley, an emerging dual-threat sort of quarterback that has a good handle on things. If WR Britain Covey, out for two seasons, can return and become a solid playmaker, it would really pay off. He has been impressive the first two weeks. Coming off a big 2017, running back Zach Moss looks revved up this season with 216 yards and two scores already. It’s just that the first few weeks have been window dressing. We know Washington is good. With Utah, this is our first real litmus-test.

Potentially-Sticky Issues
When you’re in the middle of the season, everything just sort of blends together. At the beginning, however, things could resonate a little deeper. Washington is getting the run-around to start the season. First, they had to play Auburn in Atlanta to open the season, while their conference peers are opening the season with softies. They come home for a nothing-game against Weber then have to pack up again to Salt Lake City for a difficult game against a team they barely beat at home last season. It’s pretty hot in Salt Lake right now, whereas in Washington, the rains are already falling.

Utah has looked good to start the season, but this is a lot tougher. They scored 30 last season, which may or may not have been a fluke. I wouldn’t expect to see a point-total that high this time around. As Utah has ascended to a role of semi-respectable Pac-12 presence, they are a team that has banked on defense, turnover-margin, and things like that. That sort of style might not play off that well against a team that simply has superior horsepower on both sides of the ball, though it has in recent seasons to varying degrees.

Take the Points on the Home Underdog
It’s just that I think Utah does match up well with Washington, despite reasons to think the contrary. From a somewhat-simplistic perspective, I think Washington will be trying to surpass what they were in 2017, with their 2016 form a memory at this point. They seem to fall just short of full-blown Pac-12 terror. I see Utah’s overall competency going a long way in this one—not making mistakes on offense, managing the game, and avoiding the big play defensively. All in all, I see another close game, in which case taking the points at home will be my move in this one. I’m taking Utah.

Loot’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Utah Utes plus 6.5 points.

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