Washington Huskies at Utah Utes, Saturday Oct. 29, 3:30 p.m. ET
The stakes for this game meet the most optimistic expectations of both fanbases. Both squads are tied for the lead in their division, and the possibility of a rematch in the conference championship game exists. There is more than that on the line, though - much more. Washington is now ranked in the top four of the country and now likely controls their own fate for the playoff. If they keep winning then they will get in - probably. Utah doesn't likely have that possibility in front of them - they have a loss already, and it's hard to imagine a Pac-12 champ that has a loss in the playoff given the state of the conference. They can still win their division soundly, though, and build a real foundation for the coming years. Big game.
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Washington at Utah Betting Storylines
With the start the Huskies are off to one thing has been proven beyond doubt - Chris Petersen can coach. After leaving his safe place at Boise State, it took him a couple of years to gain traction at Washington. With a stud quarterback and a strong running game, though, he has this team at a higher point than they have been at in a long, long time - and it feels entirely sustainable. It's only one season, so they haven't proven anything, but it sure feels like the epicenter of the Pac-12 has shifted decidedly northward. Washington State is also having a heck of a year, so the possibility for the best Apple Cup in a generation is strong, too. As good as Petersen is, though, it would be a mistake to make him too much of a handicapping factor here. Utah's Kyle Whittingham might not quite be on the level of his opponent here, but he is well above average as a coach. In fact, there probably aren't more than 10 or a dozen guys I would rather have coach my team in the country. Washington has an advantage on the sidelines, but not a difference-making one.
What a crazy story Joe Williams is. The senior Utah running back had had a fairly unremarkable career. He carried 104 times last year - his entire contribution to the scoresheet before this season. This year he started the season, became disillusioned for whatever reason, and retired. Then he came back at the request of the team when the Utes had gone through more running backs than Spinal Tap did drummers. He had 75 total yards in two games before his hiatus and 511 yards in his two games since - including an FBS season-best 332 yards last week at UCLA. Wildly impressive. Can it be repeated here? Who knows? This is an unprecedented situation, so we can't judge it by logical standards. This is a better team by far than the two Williams has torched so far, but that doesn't explain what has happened. There are many reasons to watch this game, but this crazy storyline is far from the least of them. If you insist on trying to apply some logic to this illogical situation then you could be at least somewhat optimistic for Williams here. The Huskies are 11th in the country in passing yards allowed per game and sixth in points allowed, but they are a much more pedestrian 47th in rushing yards allowed - 145.4 per game. There is an opportunity here. The challenge, though, could be that Utah could lose the ability to focus on the run - Washington is fourth in the country in points scored, averaging more than 48 per game. If they get off to a hot start then that could rob Utah of the luxury of a run-heavy attack.
Washington at Utah Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Washington favored by 11.5. That has fallen slightly, with 10.5 now the widely-available number, and 10 appearing in spots. A slight majority of bets have been on Washington, so it seems as if early sharp money was tilted slightly towards Utah.
The Huskies are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 overall and 4-1 ATS in their last five against teams with winning records. They are, however, just 19-44-2 ATS in their last 65 October contests. The Utes are 0-4 ATS in their last four home games against teams with winning road records. They are 1-5 ATS in their last six games following an ATS win.
Washington at Utah Predictions and Picks
I respect Utah and what they have accomplished this year. In big games, though, I make it a policy to not overthink things -- identify the better team and ride them. Utah is good, but Washington is much better in most aspects right now. Utah won't enjoy the crazy running success they have had recently, and their defense will be tested here. The Huskies will win this one by daylight, and that makes them the pick. I especially like how the line is moving, and I hope patience will be rewarded by a fall below the key number of 10.
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