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The Utes will be playing a hard-nosed Washington team on Saturday night at one of the toughest places to play in the nation. Here’s my line-upon-line predictions for the game.
Over/under on John White carries: 19.5. At the beginning of the year, offensive coordinator Brian Johnson fell into the trap that many offensive coordinators make when trying to run the spread. He subconsciously believed that running the spread offense meant throwing the ball all the time. As he’s grown into his big offensive coordinator shoes, that has changed. For any spread offense to work, the run game has to get established consistently. White only carried the ball 14 times against Arizona State, 13 times against USC and 11 against UCLA. This is the Utes' best playmaker. Johnson now realizes that. Over
Over/under on mispronunciations of Star Lotulelei: 263.5. Yes, the Pac-12 network and the rest of the media have had two months to figure it out. They haven’t. Heck, even Kyle Whittingham has said it wrong a couple of times at press conferences over the year. It’s frustrating, but don’t expect it to change. Over
Over/under on Jake Murphy receptions: 4.5. For the Utes, it needs to be over to be consistently proficient as an offense. Part of the problem is there is no place in the traditional spread offense for a tight end. Johnson has had to be somewhat innovative to get the ball to Murphy, the Utes’ leading receiver, but don’t expect that to change. Over
Over/under on Reggie Dunn 100-yard kickoff returns: 0.5. Dunn returned another 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the fourth of his career. No one else in history has ever done that. Dunn is fast, and if he is going to take on the house, it is going to have to be over 100 yards because Washington is going to try its best to just kick it through the end zone. Under
Over/under on Keith Price scrambles for first downs on third down: 3.5. The boiling point of frustration for Ute fans this year was when they gave up 10 third-down conversions to UCLA, six on third-and-long. A lot of those UCLA conversions came on mobile quarterback Nick Hundley’s scrambles. If the Utes have learned their lesson from that game, this will be under. I don’t think the Utes have to keep this under to win, but it’ll be tough to leave Seattle with a win if Price gets loose. Over
Over/under on Travis Wilson passing yards: 175.5. Washington’s pass defense is the second-best in the Pac-12. Wilson has only thrown for over 200 yards once this season. I don’t believe that the Utes will give Wilson enough of a chance to get near that output Saturday. Under
Over/under on John White rushing yards: 99.5. The Utes are 11-0 when White runs over 100 yards. Washington has the third-worst run defense in the Pac-12, and the Utes know that. As I wrote earlier, I believe that he’ll get enough carries to get to that pivotal benchmark of 100 yards. I’m going over with this one, and that’s a good sign for the Utes. Over
Over/under on new penalties invented by the Pac-12 officials during the game: 1.5. It’s no secret that the Pac-12 referees are the worst in the business. Inside college football, coaches and players are obscenely frustrated with the Pac-12 officials’ reticence to throw flags. They seem to get so much enjoyment from throwing their flags. They’re the closest thing college football has to NBA referees — egotistical enough to think we all paid good money to go to the game and watch them instead of the athletes. They seem to also take special pride in enforcing rules that aren’t widely enforced anywhere. Sex outside of marriage is still on the books in the state of Utah, but no one actually enforces that law. Pac-12 referees are the police officers who would. Over
Over/under on Washington points: 21.5. We all saw the quality of Cal’s defense a couple weeks ago when the Utes put up 49 points against it. Washington struggled to put up 21 against it last week. Utah’s defense is playing better and better every week. The Washington weaknesses fit well with Utah’s strengths. It’s a good match-up for the Utes’ defense. Under
Over/under on Utah points: 23.5. Utah averages 26.6 points per game this season while the Huskies give up 26.3 points per game. Utah’s offense is becoming more effective as the weeks go by. Utah should be able to run the ball against Washington, but that would require giving White the ball enough to make it happen. If Johnson calls White’s name enough on Saturday night, it will open up the pass game for Wilson. Washington’s defense is still a work in progress, and I like the Utes to be more effective against the Huskies than they were against UCLA and Oregon State. Over, but barely
Final prediction. This is simply a good match-up for the Utes. In review, Utah has established a strong run game with the re-emergence of John White. Washington’s run defense is terrible. Washington’s pass offense typically makes too many mistakes on its own to be effective, and that’s the Utes’ weakness on defense. The Utes stop the run as consistently as any team in the country. If Washington is going to win, it needs to run the ball well. Don’t expect that to happen. So for the match-up, the Utes look good in this one.
However, there are two wild cards in this game. First, Keith Price. If he runs loose when plays break down to create big plays, the Utes are in trouble. Second, CenturyLink Field. When full, it’s one of the loudest stadiums in the country, for college football or professional football. If the Utes score first and run a little no-huddle, they should be able to keep the crowd relatively out of it.
The crowd will be a factor, but the Utes have managed crowd noise pretty well this season. It won’t make a difference in the outcome. If anything does, it will be Price’s mobility. I’m counting on the Utes to have made adjustments from the Hundley fiasco a month ago at UCLA. Utah 24, Washington 17
Trevor Amicone is the founder of byutahinsiders.com, which covers BYU, Utah and national college football with weekly polls, bowl projections, opinions and analysis. Follow its new Twitter page at @BYUtahInsiders and Amicone's at @TrevorAmicone.