Washington did not look that great against Cal. The offense turned over the ball four times, the defense gave up 249 rushing yards. The 21-13 final score was not the type of thing you stick to your fridge. But, it is so, so important to remember that that took place on the road. Tomorrow’s game against Utah is in Seattle, at CenturyLink Field. While that setting may not improve the offense much (expect a whole lot of Bishop Sankey and not a lot else), it certainly has meant a whole different level of defensive fortitude. The Husky defense has a level of confidence and energy that is clearly visible from the time they warm up on the field to the end of the game.
So, in my mind, the fact that this is a home game, and the fact that Utah is a 4-5 team with a freshman quarterback, keeps this prediction from being too complex. I believe the Huskies will win. The offense probably will not score all that well, and will not move the ball consistently for all four quarters, but Bishop Sankey will continue to turn three or four yard opportunities and turn them into nine or ten yard runs, and Price can be counted on to get the ball to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and perhaps even Kasen Williams for some decisive 30-40 yard gains through the air.
The real deciding factor between the offense scoring 13-20 points and a more comfortable 28-35 points will be turnovers. If Keith Price and the skill players take care of the football, Sankey and ASJ will make enough plays to get three or four touchdowns on the board. If that is not the case, and the ball is turned over three or four times again, it will be completely up to the defense to make sure 13-21 points is enough for a win.
Luckily for Washington, I expect the defense to play at that sort of level, and I would be surprised if Utah reaches the 20 point mark. The experienced and opportunistic Husky defensive backfield will force Travis Wilson into making some horrible throws, and I don’t think the talented John White will find too many big holes to run through, either. At home, players like John Timu and Shaq Thompson punish running backs, often before they reach the line of scrimmage.
So, I expect a Washington win whether or not the offense plays well. That being said, the fact that this Washington’s first home game against a mediocre opponent in several weeks, if the offense is going to put it all together and have a 30+ point kind of night, it will probably be this game against Utah. Whether that means Sankey having a 200+ yard, 3+ touchdown kind of a monster game or Price finally connecting for 3+ touchdowns without any big interceptions, it is something to watch for. Not saying I necessarily expect it, but I certainly wouldn’t be shocked.
Score Prediction: UW 24, Utah 17