Utah Quarterbacks and Receivers vs Washington State Defensive Backs
With Travis Wilson making his fourth consecutive start this week and getting his first W as a starting quarterback against Cal, he is poised for a solid performance against Washington State's defense. Wilson has transitioned into the starting role quite smoothly, displaying that he is more than capable of leading Utah's offense. Though Wilson has only thrown for two touchdowns on the year, that could/should change this week against the cougars. As Kenneth Scott continues to have a breakout season for the utes , his height itself could continue to give opposing defensive backs problems. With Washington State's corners both being 5-10, Scott should be able to take advantage of any 1-on-1 matchups he gets with his 6-3 frame. If the wideouts can continue to improve on the dropped balls, they should have success against this Washington State secondary.
Washington State's secondary has struggled for the most part at defending the pass, ranking just 105th in the nation in passing defense, and giving up an average of nearly 270 yards per game. Safety Deone Bucannon is the playmaker for this group. Leading the defense in tackles (70) and interceptions (4), Bucannon will be looking to add to those totals and taking advantage of any misthrown balls by Wilson. Along with Bucannon, safety Casey Locker and cornerbacks Damante Horton and Daniel Simmons will have to stick with Utah's receivers very closely if the cougars defense want to have success. Due to the cougars likelihood of stacking the box looking to slow down Utah's running game, the play of the defensive backfield will be very important.
Utah Running Backs and Tight Ends vs Washington State Linebackers
Last week, John White seemed to have broken out of his slump rushing for over 100 yards for the first time since Northern Colorado. White also added 2 rushing touchdowns which were his first rushing touchdowns as well since Northern Colorado. Kelvin York has ran the ball very well for Utah all season long, averaging nearly 5 yards a carry. As White and York began to display that one-two punch that we've been looking for all season, York went down with an injury in the Cal game and his status for Saturday is unknown. If York is unable to go, White could very well go back to the 30+ carries he saw last year. Lucky Radley and Jarrell Oliver would likely see time as well if York is unable to go. With Jake Murphy leading Utah in receptions, receiving yards and tied with Kenneth Scott for TD receptions, look for Murphy to play another big role for Utah's offense this week.
Washington State's linebackers are lead by standout redshirt freshman Darryl Monroe. Monroe is second on the team in tackles with 54, and leads the team in forced fumbles with 2. Travis Long and Justin Sagote are also very good linebackers and get to the ball quick. With Washington State using a 3-4 defense, the linebackers will have to contain John White and force Utah to beat them through the air. Holding Stanford's Stefan Taylor to only 56 rushing yards last week was quite the accomplishment by this defense, and a large part of that was due to the play of the linebackers. If Washington State is able to play defense like they did last week against Stanford, it could be a very long day for Utah's offense.
Utah Offensive Line vs Washington State Defensive Line
With Utah's offensive line having a great performance last week against Cal, they will look to do the same this week against Washington State. The offensive line was able to open up some good holes for the running backs, and keep Wilson out of much danger. What will be important this week is pass protection, and to give Wilson a good amount of time to throw the ball. The wideouts should be able to get downfield and take advantage of this secondary, so if Wilson is given enough time the opportunities should be there.
The cougars starting defensive line will likely include: Xavier Cooper, Ione Gauta and either Destiny Vaeao or Logan Mayes. With Gauta being the only upperclassman, and both Cooper and Vaeao being freshmen, this is a very young unit that Utah's offensive line should be able to handle. With the 3-4 defense that the cougars play with, they will give Utah a lot of different looks and blitzes with their linebackers that Utah's line must pick up in order to have success. Though the cougars line might not have anybody who demands a double team, Xavier Cooper is a good looking freshman and could develop into a fantastic defensive end.
Utah Defensive Backs vs Washington State Quarterback and Wide Receivers
Jeff Tuel went wild last week against a good Stanford defense. Despite getting sacked 10 times, Tuel still threw for 401 yards completing nearly 70% of his passes! Washington State has a full stable of player makers at the receiver position and Utah's defensive backs will need to step up in a major way.
Ryan Lacy did a phenomenal job against Keenan Allen last week and will have an equally difficult task Saturday afternoon against Marquess Wilson. Wilson is an NFL talent that has the ability to catch everything and anything throw his way. Wilson has long strides and great leaping ability, throw in the fact that he is a legit 6'4 and you are dealing with a nightmare! Last year Moe Lee played his best game against Washington State, finishing with 2 interceptions. Brian Blechen and Eric Rowe also chipped in an interception last year in the snow bowl up in Pullman. The Utes most likely will not see Halliday like they did last year and will be dealing with the veteran Tuel. Tuel has made a lot of mistakes this year, and this could be a good game for the Utes DBs to break out in (in terms of interceptions). True freshman Gabe Marks will be somebody to keep an eye on, Marks is averaging nearly 60 yards receiving and has the ability to make plays all over the field. Another freshman, Dominique Williams, is another threat that Washington State has, he has been playing better over the past few weeks. Nickleback play with be huge in this game, Washington State uses a lot of speedy receivers and Reggie Topps will be on the slot-receiver Saturday frequently. Lacy, Lee, and Topps may be on the field together for the majority of the game with the limited rushing attack of the Cougars and pass heavy offense.
EDGE: Washington State
Utah Linebackers vs Washington State Running Backs and Tight Ends
The Utah linebacking core is still riddled with a few key injuries, I think it is safe to count out Jacoby Hale and Reshawn Hooker for this weeks matchup against Washington State. All signs point to Jason Whittingham, VJ, Trevor getting the starts again this week. Jason is coming off the best game of his young career and could continue to grow in this game against Washington State. Whittingham is a good athlete and as he becomes more confident in what he is doing, that becomes more and more evident. VJ Fehoko and LT Filiaga could struggle against a WSU team that throws the ball a lot, but doesn't really do much with their running game. Victor Spikes could be used to get some athletism on the field to chase down receivers over the middle. Trevor Reilly is one of the key players in the game for the Utes. He is going to be active in the pass rush, as well as pass coverage. I wouldn't be surprised if he makes a few game-changing plays.
Washington State rarely uses a tight end, and they don't even list any on their roster. While the running game for Washington State only yields about 35 yards a game, it still needs to be respected. Teondray Caldwell and Carl Winston are the two guys featured in the Cougar backfield. Caldwell averages nearly 5 yards a carry and gets the ball around 6-7 times a game.
Utah Defensive Line vs Washington State Offensive Line
The Utes D line had one of their strongest performances of the year last week against Cal. Joe Kruger, Tenny Palepoi, and Star Lotulelei all had sacks. I expect at least 3 sacks by this unit again. They will be able to pin their ears back against a team that rarely runs the ball. Nate Fakahafua, Joe Kruger, Trevor Reilly, and Star should add to their pass deflection stats as well.
Washington State's offensive line is pretty bad. The best linemen on the team is probably their captain, Elliot Bosch, who plays center. Bosch will have his hands full against Star who will have 50 pounds on him. The left tackle, Gunnar Eklund is a RS freshman, and has potential, but he should be out-matched all night. I expect Nate Fakahafua to to have his way come off of the left end. This is the Utes biggest advantage and anything less than 4 team sacks and constant pressure would be concerning.
Unit Matchups - Washington St. at Utah
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