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SALT LAKE CITY — The feeling around Salt Lake City this week is similar to the feel that surrounded BYU’s visit to Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2004. ESPN’s College GameDay was setting up shop just west of the stadium, Ute fans were stocking up on extra tortilla chips and the nation was taking note of the history that was about to take place in Salt Lake City. Although this game doesn’t have the national attention or impact that the ’04 Holy War did, this game is almost as historic for the Ute program.
When the Utes welcome the Washington Huskies into town Saturday night, it will be the first Pac-12 home game in school history. In 2004, the Utes ushered in a new era for not only the program but college football as a whole. This weekend, the Utes will also be ushering in a new era for the program, which brings us to our first and most predominant storyline among five to look forward to in Saturday night’s game.
1. First Pac-12 home game. The Utes and their fans will get their first taste of Pac-12 conference football on Saturday, and the atmosphere should reflect that. Expect the MUSS to be as loud and obnoxious as ever. The historical significance of the game is not the only thing that will have Ute fans’ anticipation through the roof. The immediate implications of a Ute win excites the fan base just as much, if not more. If the Utes can win Saturday night, it would set up a behemoth game for the inside track on the Pac-12 South Division title when Arizona State comes to town next week.
2. Sark week. The Washington head coach, Steve Sarkisian, is familiar with Salt Lake City. Sarkisian was the BYU quarterback the last time BYU beat Utah by more than a touchdown. That was back in 1996 in Salt Lake City. Sark is also familiar with Ute offensive coordinator, Norm Chow. Chow mentored Sarkisian at USC when they were both on the offensive coaching staff — Chow as the offensive coordinator, Sarkisian as the quarterbacks coach. Sarkisian also ran Chow’s offense at BYU when Chow was the offensive coordinator in Provo.
3. The Price is right. Jake who? No, I’m not quoting disgruntled BYU fans. Washington quarterback Keith Price has just been that good, making Jake Locker a distant memory in Seattle. Price has thrown for 14 touchdowns in just four games so far this season. To put that in perspective, Locker had 17 all last season. Price has a knack for making plays when the pocket breaks down, which means the Utes’ young secondary will be tested as they try to cover the Washington wide outs as Price scrambles. It may be the toughest test yet for Ryan Lacy, Conroy Black, Keith McGill and company.
4. Has Wynn adjusted? There was a lot of concern about Jordan Wynn after week one when he struggled against Montana State. In the two games since then, his play has been above average but overshadowed. That may be who Wynn is: a quarterback who manages the game and is relatively unheard from. You’ve heard the saying about referees and umpires: “They’re best when you don’t know they’re there.” That may also be true for Jordan Wynn. If so, will that remain the same? Wynn’s stat line may consistently float near 250 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions. If that’s the case, Ute fans should be happy.
5. Washington offense vs. Utah defense. The Ute defense leads the conference in pass efficiency defense and interceptions per game. They are second in the conference for fewest offensive touchdowns allowed and fewest offensive points allowed. The Utes’ D is arguably the best in the Pac-12 conference. Meanwhile, Washington’s offense may be one of the best in the conference. It ranks near the top of the conference in passing efficiency and passing touchdowns per game. Something’s got to give this weekend. What will it be?
Trevor Amicone is the sports director at 88.1 Weber FM "Ogden's Radio Station" and host of the sports talk radio show, "Fully Loaded Sports with Trevor Amicone". Find more of his blogs at TrevorsTopTens.com. Follow Trevor on Twitter @TrevorAmicone.