Scouting Utah: What to Look For

Rested and ready for the Pac-12. To say that Utah is rejuvenated coming off a bye week and an extended celebration over its 54-10 whipping of in-state rival Brigham Young on Sept. 17 is an understatement.

Not that the Utes (2-1, 0-1 Pac-12 South) actually celebrated for two weeks. They quickly left the rivalry game behind and started focusing on their first Pac-12 home game in school history on Saturday when Washington (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12 North) comes calling. Huskies quarterback Keith Price, who is averaging 245.8 passing yards and leads the nation with 14 touchdown passes, has the game to capture any opponent's attention.

"We are going to have our hands full this week," Utah cornerback Conroy Black told the Salt Lake Tribune. "He does his best to keep the plays alive, and he has a good ability to scramble."

The Utes might be a bit more concerned than usual because they are giving up 342.7 yards through the air, and if not for their ability to force turnovers -- 12 in the first three games, might be looking to change up things on defense.

Running back Chris Polk is of equal concern to the Utes because of his 105.5-yard rushing average per game, but Utah is its typical stingy self against the run, giving up just 79.3 yards per contest.

Utah is hoping to see a fully healthy Jordan Wynn turn the offense into a juggernaut. Though the Utes put up 54 points on the Cougars, the defense forcing six turnovers and scoring twice had a huge part of that effort. Questions about his throwing shoulder have surrounded Wynn all season long. He had an operation on it back in December but has looked hot and cold through the first three weeks.

While Wynn had a season-high 239 passing yards against BYU, his accuracy has not been what the Utes had hoped when they elected to get his surgery done before last year's Poinsettia Bowl to get him ready to go for the 2011 season.

Wynn's teammates don't seem too stressed about him.

"He's great. I'm not worried about him at all," offensive guard Sam Brenner said of his quarterback. "I did play with him in high school (Oceanside, Calif.) and I've known him for a long time, so I think he's doing great."

The Utes and Huskies will find out how great he is on Saturday.


--The Utes lead the Pac-12 and are tied for third nationally in red-zone defense. Utah opponents have been in the red zone six times but have scored on only three possessions -- all TDs. The Utes' rush defense (79.3 yards allowed per game) is good for 14th nationally but only third in the Pac-12.

--Saturday's game is Utah's homecoming, and Washington represents the first Pac-12 foe for homecoming since 1975, when the Utes hosted Arizona State. Both teams were members of the Western Athletic Conference then.

--Salt Lake City is abuzz over the first Pac-12 home game in school history, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. The Utes have just a few standing-room-only tickets for Saturday's game against Washington.

"We've been talking about this game for 14 months now," Zack Lassiter, Utah assistant athletic director in charge of ticket sales, told the Tribune. "It feels more like it does for a College Game Day game or TCU or BYU at the end of the year. Everywhere you go people are talking about it, and that makes it neat."

SERIES HISTORY: Washington leads 6-0 (last meeting, 1979, Washington 41-7).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: If QB Jordan Wynn is to get untracked in the passing game, this week represents as good a chance as any. The Huskies are giving up 327.5 yards passing per game, while Wynn has increased his passing yardage total every week. Huskies opponents, however, are averaging 44.5 pass attempts per game, and the Utes don't want to be anywhere close to that figure. The Utes will look to establish John White in the running game, and Washington gives up a respectable 125.8 rushing yards per game and a 4.0 yards-per-carry average. The Utes are hoping to see more of the rushing lanes White had during his 177-yard, three-TD performance against BYU.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: As long as the Utes keep forcing turnovers at their present rate, they've got few problems. Utah ranks sixth in the country with 12 turnovers forced and leads the nation with eight fumble recoveries. That makes up somewhat for the unusually high 342.7 yards allowed per game, including 263.3 through the air. The Utes have been stingy against the run (79.3 yards allowed per game) but have not created enough pressure in the passing game, contributing just five sacks. That has forced the Utah secondary to play longer in coverage. The bottom line, however, is that the defense has allowed just one TD to each of its first three opponents -- USC received a meaningless gift TD at the end of its victory over the Utes that pushed the score to 23-14. Utah forced six BYU turnovers before its bye week, and that helped the team produce a season-high 54 points.


THIS WEEK'S GAME: Washington at Utah, Oct. 1 -- The Utes are 6-0 under coach Kyle Whittingham after bye weeks and likely focused on getting the passing game to produce more consistently. Utah is celebrating homecoming and its first ever Pac-12 home game. A fired-up crowd should give the Utes early momentum, and if the defense is as opportunistic Saturday as it has been all season, Utah may be able to keep Washington on its heels.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Utes are 2-1 on the season, and QB Jordan Wynn has yet to play his best game. If he can find his rhythm early, the Utes can put pressure on Huskies QB Keith Price, who has a nation-leading 14 TD passes. The Utes can't afford to get into a scoring fest with the Huskies, who are averaging 34.8 points per game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Now, it's time to evaluate QB Jordan Wynn. The junior had been trying to test his surgically-repaired shoulder as well as trying to learn offensive coordinator Norm Chow's scheme with mixed results. While the Utes put up 54 points against in-state rival Brigham Young, the defense had a big hand in that, and Wynn was just 16-for-30 passing in that game. On the season, Wynn is 54-for-99 for 578 yards. His saving grace so far has been his five TD passes and just one interception.

--Redshirt freshman WR Dres Anderson has assumed the starting job over Reggie Dunn at one wideout spot. Anderson is the big-play threat the Utes had envisioned for Dunn. Anderson has nine catches on the season but is averaging a healthy 17.6 yards per catch with a long of 59 yards. He has one TD, and the Utes are hoping a starting spot allows him to give the offense the potential of a big play early.

--Starting junior-college transfer G Miles Mason has been the surprise of the Utes' early season. He reported late to fall camp, but still earned a job in the starting lineup at left tackle in the season opener against Montana State when John Cullen was sidelined with a concussion. He then switched over to left guard when Cullen returned for Week Two. Mason has yet to relinquish the position.

--RT Tony Bergstrom, who suffered a knee injury in the 54-10 win over Brigham Young two weeks ago, is questionable for Saturday's game against Washington. Percy Taumoelau will start if Bergstrom can't play.

--TE Jake Murphy also suffered a knee injury against BYU, and his status is up in the air. --FB Luke Matthews, who missed the game against the Cougars because of a shoulder injury, is expected to return this week. Top Stories