Despite some new challengers to the throne in the Pac-12, Utah and Washington have again risen to the top as two of the best teams in the conference. They will face one another in the Pac-12 Championship Game, with a berth in the Rose Bowl on the line, as well as the legacies of some of the key players on each side of the field.
Washington comes into the Pac-12 title game as a 5.5-point favorite at BetOnline, as they look to reclaim their throne atop one of the wilder conferences in college football this season.
Utah is 53rd in the nation in scoring offense this season, putting up 30.8 points per game this season. But the Utes have scored 30 or more points in all but one of their last eight games this season, and just have to outperform a Washington offense that hasn’t been great itself this year.
The Utes are 44th in the country in rushing this season, averaging 197.8 yards per game on the ground. Through the air, they are tied for 81st in the nation at 215.2 yards per game. Tyler Huntley is a pretty accurate passer for the Utes, completing just over 64% of his passes for 7.64 yards per attempt. But Utah is driven by Zack Moss, who has averaged over six yards per carry for the season and tallied over 1,000 yards rushing on the year.
The Utah defense is the team’s biggest strength, though, as they allow just 19.3 points per game. That is good for 17th in college football this season. They have allowed over 30 points just one time this season, in their surprising loss at Arizona State four games ago. They are great at getting pressure on the quarterback, which aids the rest of their defense. Against a quality quarterback in Jake Browning, they’ll need to get plenty of that pressure here.
Utah lost a tough 21-7 game to Washington earlier this season, in what turned out to be a preview of this Pac-12 title game. Utah just couldn’t get its offense going in this game, and will need to bring more to the table on that side of the ball if they want any chance to threaten the Huskies this time around. If they manage to get revenge and win the Pac-12, it will be the greatest moment in Utah sports history since Karl Malone and the Jazz lost to the Chicago Bulls a whole bunch.
Washington Huskies Pac-12 Championship Analysis
Washington is 76th in the country in scoring offense, averaging 28 points per game. This was an offense that was one of the best in the country a couple of seasons ago, but has shown that wide receivers John Ross and Dante Pettis were some of the most valuable players in the Pac-12, as Washington has cooled off in their absence.
Their 185 yards per game on the ground are good for 53rd in the country, and their 236.3 yards per game through the air are good for 64th in the country. Jake Browning is an accurate passer, completing 65% of his throws for the year, and showed against Washington State last week that he is more than capable of stretching the field vertically. If he can do that in better weather this week against the Utes, that will really open things up for the Huskies running game, where Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed have combined for over 1,600 yards on the ground as a duo.
On defense, the Huskies allow just 16.5 points per game, putting them in eighth in college football in that category. They gave up just seven points to the Utes the last time these two teams played, forcing three turnovers in that game as well. Washington was a top-ten team in the country at that time, but they have fallen off in terms of quality since.
Another Pac-12 title would boost the Huskies into the pantheon of great Pac-12 teams in the history of the conference, with the team earning a playoff appearance and being consistently at the top of the league during Browning’s time as a Husky. But the Huskies might be overvalued here after they had a huge matchup advantage last week against Washington State. The snow in that game would have made Bob Barker proud in how it neutered the Washington State passing offense, and the Huskies might not have such a weather advantage this time around.
Utah vs Washington Trends
Utah comes into the Pac-12 title game at 9-3 straight up on the season and 7-5 against the spread. If Saturdays are for the boys, then Fridays are for the Utes, as Utah has covered the spread in each of their last five games on Fridays. They have also covered the spread in six of their last seven games in conference play, as well as four of their last five games on neutral fields.
Washington is also 9-3 straight up on the year, but they have been disastrous against the spread this season, going 3-9 against the number. One of those three wins against the spread came last week, when they had the benefit of going against a pass-heavy Washington State offense in snowy conditions that really limited Mike Leach’s aerial attack. In fact, the Apple Cup was Washington’s only cover in their last seven games. Needless to say, Utah has an advantage in the trends department here.
Washington looked great in their win over Washington State in the Apple Cup, in a game that had the attention of the nation thanks to the fact that it was played at night on the day after Thanksgiving.
However, the Utes have quietly been playing some of the best defense in all of college football, and have improved since they played Washington while the Huskies have taken a downward turn since then.