When Utah has the Ball
Utah's spread offense is evolving. Finally. The team struggled early under Jordan Wynn, they treaded water with Jon Hays, but now they're finally starting to develop under Travis Wilson.
Wilson and the Utes have put together back to back weeks where they've accumulated a wealth of yards on offense and they finally seem to have figured how to get the ball in the end zone. Gone are the days of goalline hook-and-ladders and QB draws and here (hopefully to stay) is a new attitude and a power formation that is producing redzone scores.
Travis Wilson has grown is these past four games. In that short time we've watched him become more confident. His reads are getting better, he's taking shots downfield, and when a decision is made his delivery is lightning-quick. The Ute wide receivers are all finding ways to contribute, which is another positive, so Wilson has a variety of weapons to throw to on any given play.
John White is back. He was slowed by injury early in the year but he has now produced back-to-back 100-yard efforts – both Ute wins. Kelvin York went down with an injury against Cal and most likely won't be available for the game this week. Karl Williams, former fullback, carried the ball 7 times for 37 yards and ran with a fierceness that we haven't seen from a Ute running back other than York all season. He'll have to keep his intensity up as he'll likely continue to get reps to spell White until York is healthy again.
Defensively the Huskies are much improved over last season's squad. Washington struggled to hold teams under 30 points last year and made a concerted effort to improve their play this year. Perhaps no unit improved more than the defensive backfield. Cornerback Desmond Trufant is bound the the NFL next year and he's showing why this season. He has started all 9 games this season at CB and is currently in the top-10 for the team in total tackles. He's also added 4.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception, and 1 blocked kick. He's a very well rounded player and a fantastic cover corner who will play physical, aggressive defensive against Utah's receivers all night.
Washington's run defense is atrocious. Opponents on the season are averaging just under 200 yards per game against the Huskies (192.2/gm). 3 of Washington's top 4 tacklers are defensive backs, which means they're allowing a lot of plays at the second level and beyond. Sophomore defensive end Andrew Hudson may be the most active player Utah sees on Washington's front line. His 3.5 sacks lead the team and his 4.5 tackles for loss lead all players on the defensive line.
A player the Utes will want to watch out for is freshman nickel corner/safety Shaq Thompson. Thompson was one of the top recruits in the country last year and he's showing why on the field this year. He has started all 9 games this year and has recorded 2 interceptions, 1 sack, a team-leading 6.5 tackles for loss, and is currently 4th on the team in total tackles with 51. He's an all-around player who will cause some matchup nightmares for Utah's slot receivers. He'll make a lot of quick throws and underneath plays difficult.
As stated above, the run game is where Washington is most vulnerable. This bodes well for Utah as they will enter the game with their running game playing its best ball of the year. John White will test the UW linebackers and secondary and could break off a big run or two during the game against the porous Husky front seven. Travis Wilson may find the air attack a little more difficult to exploit, but he should find success using his tight ends and hitting on underneath routes. Overall this defense has playmakers but they're beatable if the Ute offense can stick to its strengths and take what is given.
When Washington has the ball
The Washington Huskies offense has been consistently inconistent in 2012. The Huskies haven't put up over 21 points in the last 6 games. They have only scored over 21 once on the year and that was against a weak Portland State team. With that being said talent is not the problem with this Huskies team.
It all starts with the dynamic Keith Price. Keith hasn't had a great season, but he is highly capable of taking over a game with both his arm and his legs. He came into the season with "Heisman darkhorse hype" and has fallen short of that, but he is still just about as talented as any QB in the Pac-12. He has thrown 10 interceptions on the season compared to 9 touchdowns and has a low QB efficiency. It doesn't help that his offensive line is plagued by injury and has very little success keeping Price on his feet.
The Huskies offensive line is missing two of the guys they started the year with and have been playing magical chairs ever since. Their center & left tackle are the only two players that have started every game. They struggle with their pass blocking, but are a sufficient run blocking unit. It will be important for Star to get a great push throughout the game. Dave Kruger and Tenny Palepoi should have nice games if Star can dominate his match-up. Expect some blitzes dialed up off the edges all night long.
Price doesn't have as many weapons this year as he did last year, but his two go-to guys are about as good as it gets. Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins are true Sophomores. Williams is a big talented WR who is averaging 60 yards a game and has 4 TDs on the year. Seferian-Jenkins may be the best TE prospect since Vernon Davis. He is gigantic and has the ball skills of a WR. He can box defenders out like Dennis Rodman in his prime and can roast anyone one on one. Utah's cornerbacks have been battle tested all year and should be able to keep Kasen Williams in check, but Blechen, Rowe, Trevor Reilly, and whoever else tries to help out on ASJ will need to bring their A games.
Loosing one of the best Pac backs in the last few decades, Chris Polk, didn't really seem to phase the Huskies ground game, Bishop Sankey, another Sophmore, has been impressive for Washington. He is averaging 95 yards a game, at nearly 5 yards a carry + 11 touchdowns. Sankey is a good balanced back, he has a good burst and doesn't go down without a fight. The Ute linebackers and safeties are going to need to gang tackle and wrap up.
Game Preview: Utah at Washington
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