This weekend against No. 5 Washington, No. 17 Utah will play either spoiler or kingmaker. The Huskies (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12) are the Pac-12’s only team with a realistic chance of playing in the College Football Playoff.
And the Utes (7-1, 4-1) are the first team the Huskies have played who could reasonably make for an impressive victory. Formerly noteworthy victories over Oregon and Stanford are diluted by those teams’ combined 2-7 Pac-12 record.
The UW happened to play Rutgers in a year when the Scarlet Knights are among the worst teams in football, and that was their only nonconference opponent that might have looked like a tough out when the game was scheduled.
The Huskies have made the most of their weak schedule, and currently rank first in the Pac-12 in both scoring offense (48.3 points per game) and defense (14.6 ppg). They have only had one close game – an overtime win at Arizona, which is currently winless in Pac-12 games.
Of course, it is a big game for the Utes as well. A win over Washington could propel Utah into the Top-10 nationally, and give it a small chance at a playoff berth. In order to beat the conference behemoth, the Utes will study what worked for the Wildcats.
“It was pretty apparent that they were able to run the football,” Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said. “They had over 300 yards rushing and that’s the formula for success. We pride ourselves on running the football and if we can do it as well as Arizona did, we’ve got a chance.”
The Utes running game is looking a lot healthier the last two weeks, thanks to the return of running back Joe Williams. Williams had retired from football, but returned after four weeks and has rushed for 511 yards in a pair of wins.
Without Williams’ 332 rushing yards in the team’s 52-45 win over UCLA last week, it is doubtful the Utes win the game and remain in pole position in the Pac-12 South.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.