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First look: Utah at Washington State

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 24, 2018, 8:09 p.m.

What is it? Washington State (3-1, 0-1) returns to the Palouse to host Utah (2-1, 0-1). It’s the Cougars’ first home conference game of the 2018 season.

Where is it? Martin Stadium in Pullman.

When is it? Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Where can I watch it? The game will air on Pac-12 Networks.

Who is favored? Washington State opens as a two-point favorite.

How did they fare last week? Utah had a bye week. Washington State led by 13 points in the third quarter at USC, but couldn’t hold on and lost 39-36 to the Trojans at the Coliseum.

Why Utah will win: Kyle Whittingham brings the Football Bowl Subdivision’s top-rated defense to Martin Stadium this Saturday. The Utes are No. 1 in the country in scoring defense, at 12.3 points per game allowed, and that includes a game against No. 11 Washington. Utah is also tops in the nation when it comes to total defense; the Utes have allowed just 614 total yards in three games against Weber State, Northern Illinois and UW. WSU’s Air Raid may finally meet its match against a Utah secondary that boasts talent across the board and conceded just 155 passing yards to the Huskies on Sept. 15. Utah is also the only team in the country allowing fewer than 100 passing yards per game.

Why WSU will win: The Ute defense is elite, but the offense is clearly a work in progress. Utah has managed just 24 points in two games against non-FBS opposition, and the offense was held to 261 yards in the Pac-12 opener against UW. Tyler Huntley is one of the conference’s most mobile quarterbacks, but the fleet-footed junior hasn’t been able to escape defensive pressure this season, sacked 10 times through three games. The Cougars, on the other hand, rank second in the Pac-12 in total sacks through four games with 13. Huntley hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since the season opener against Weber State, and completed just 57 percent of his passes against Northern Illinois and Washington.

What happened last time? Hercules Mata’afa and WSU’s defensive front harassed Huntley all game, sacking the sophomore quarterback seven times and forcing him into three interceptions during last year’s 33-25 win at Salt Lake City. Troy Williams also threw a pick and Utah lost three fumbles, meaning the Utes conceded seven turnovers. Luke Falk went to the air 69 times in the return to his home state, completing 40 passes for 311 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Erik Powell made 4 of 5 field-goal attempts, but WSU’s MVP had to be Mata’afa, who finished with five tackles for loss – including three sacks – one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

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