Washington Football vs. Utah: Huskies Look to Beat Utes with Ball Control

Ezra Shaw

The Huskies face a tough Utah defense in their last home game of the year with a win getting them to bowl eligibility.

It seems like the season started just a few weeks ago, but we are already to the Huskies final home game of the year. While it was has been an incredibly frustrating season at times for the Huskies and their fans, they find themselves with three very winnable games remaining on their schedule against teams with losing records. It seems crazy to think about it with how dark the days were after the LSU, Oregon, USC and especially the Arizona game, but the Huskies can finish with the best record they ever have under Steve Sarkisian if they can take care of business the rest of the way.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves, the Utah Utes come up to Seattle on Saturday night as one of the hottest teams in the conference, coming off two-straight wins in which they clobbered their opponents, outscoring them 98-33 with all but just six of those points scored against them coming in mop up time. The Huskies should be favored against the Utes, but they cannot be taken likely and the Huskies will need to clean up a lot of the mistakes they had against Cal if they hope to get the win and get to bowl eligibility for the third-consecutive season.

What Husky fans should feel good about

CenturyLink Field - It's senior night and the Huskies last game using CenturyLink Field as a megshift home stadium, and while it still doesn't feel quite like home, the Huskies defense has been outstanding in every game they have played there. Feeding off the energy of the crowd and the mojo that CenturyLink seems to give defenses, it's unlikely that the Huskies defense that shut down USC, Stanford and Oregon State's offenses at home will suddenly wilt against the Utes who have one of the worst offenses in the conference.

Freshman Quarterback - The Huskies have intercepted opposing quarterbacks nine times in the five games they have played at home this year and Wilson will be starting only his third game as a true freshman. Wilson struggled in his last road start at Oregon State and the Huskies secondary likes to play a similar aggressive style to that of the Beavers.

Turnover margin - Like the Huskies, the Utes are around the bottom of the conference in turnover margin, and particularly do not intercept the ball much as they have only grabbed four. The Utes less than aggressive pass defense should could help Keith Price limit his turnovers and keep the Husky defense from having to always be making up for his mistakes.

What Husky fans should worry about

Utah's run defense - Led by potential number one overall draft pick Star Lotulelei, the Utes don't give up much on the ground. The Huskies have found a lot of success in the last two games by controlling the ball on the ground, but that will be a very tall task against Lotulelei and Utah defense that gives up just a little more than 100 yards a game on the ground.

Utah's pass defense - The Utes don't intercept the ball much, but they also don't give up a lot of big plays through the air, as they are among the conference's best in pass defense. They like to keep things in front of them, and the Huskies will need to get big games from Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins if they hope to get much going through the air.

Pass rush, or lack thereof - The Huskies are last in the conference in sacks and could barely get any kind of pass rush last week against Cal, who came into the game as the worst team in the entire country at pass protection. Wilson may be a true freshman and his receivers may be some of the least dangerous in the conference, but he is capable of picking them apart if he has all day to pass.

Players on the spot

Drew Schaefer - The lone senior on the offensive line has struggled most of the season and now is going to get rewarded with the nation's best defensive tackle on his senior night. It will be up to Schaefer to at least neutralize Lotulelei, or be effective in pushing the action away from him up front.

Keith Price - The Utes don't have much of an offense, but they have a good defense, so it will be imperative for Price to take only what they give him and limit his mistakes, allowing the Huskies to win the game with their defense. He can't force things and be sloppy with the ball and will have to make the most out of what he gets whenever the Huskies have the ball.

Josh Shirley - Shirley has been relegated to something of a third and long only defensive end and he needs to thrive in the role and get after Wilson every time he is on the field. The Huskies honestly have no other real pass rusher and he has shown the ability to beat tackles but has seemed to disappear as the season has progressed.

Prediction

The Utes are suddenly a lot scarier looking than they were just a couple of weeks ago, but they are still a team that the Huskies should beat at home. I expect them to follow the same script they have in the last two weeks and control the ball with their running game while selling out to the run on the defense and trying to force a lower level quarterback to beat them.

I think the Huskies will have to rely on their passing game a little bit more than they have recently and will have some more success than they have in recent weeks against a softer pass defense and pass rush. The Huskies will be able to grab the lead early and will try to hold on as Utah pounds White and regularly tests the Husky secondary deep but only has limited success. The Huskies will control most of the game, but Utah will always be in striking distance and will have the chance to tie it up, but the Husky defense will hold strong.

Washington 24 Utah 17

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