Time: Noon Saturday, Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Records: WSU (2-6, 0-5 in Pac-12); Utah (3-5, 1-4 Pac-12)
Last week: WSU lost to Stanford, 24-17; Utah defeated California, 49-27
Last time: Utah defeated WSU in Pullman, 30-27 (OT), in 2011
The line: Utah by 12
What it means for WSU: It’s do-or-die now for the Cougars. One more loss, and their bowl hopes are dashed for the ninth consecutive season. But coach Mike Leach said Monday he’s more worried about whether the Cougars continue improving each week, and their performance in a close loss against Stanford last week indicates that maybe things are starting to turn. Either way, this figures to be one of WSU’s most winnable games on the schedule, and a victory would at least lend some credence to the thought that the Cougars are starting to figure things out.
What it means for Utah: The Utes’ record might not be impressive, but with WSU and Colorado still on the schedule, Utah’s bowl hopes are still plenty alive. Last week’s dominant performance against California was Utah’s best of the season, and the Utes have been a different team at home this season. This is a must-win game for them, and a chance to continue shaking the inconsistency seen throughout the first half of the season.
Key matchup: WSU’s kickoff coverage vs. Reggie Dunn.
Dunn, a senior receiver, has three 100-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career. Two of those came on Saturday against California. One of WSU’s most-improved units this season has been its kick-coverage team, which ranks 10th in the nation and allows only 17.7 yards per return. Dunn is explosive. Utah’s offense is not. The Cougars will be focused on containing Dunn and forcing the Utes to deal with long fields.