Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham seems to have the program back on the fast track to bowl eligibility following a 3-0 start to the 2014 campaign, including a 26-10 upset win at Michigan as 3-point underdogs. Utah’s offense has looked outstanding under new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, who spent the last five years as the head coach at Wyoming. Indeed, the Utes are averaging 47.0 points per game on 4.2 yards per rush play, 9.6 yards per pass play and 6.3 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow just 8.1 yards per pass attempt and 6.0 yards per play to a mediocre offensive squad. The explosive nature of Utah’s offense is best evidenced by the fact that the Utes are averaging an incredible 9.9 yards per point this season.
Utah should have success moving the ball at will against a porous Washington State defense that is allowing 32.5 points per game on 8.1 yards per pass play and 12.6 yards per point on the road this season. I expect Utah to exploit the Cougars’ inept secondary that has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 64.5% of their pass attempts at 8.0 yards per pass play. The Utes are averaging an incredible 57.5 points per game at home this season on 10.5 yards per pass attempt, 7.0 yards per play and 9.7 yards per point, which is certainly good enough to move the chains and find the end zone Saturday night. Overall, Utah possesses a significant 1.5 yards per pass play advantage over the Cougars’ secondary, and I’m confident that offensive coordinator Dave Christensen will implement a pass-heavy game plan for tonight’s Homecoming game.
While Utah possesses a very goof offense, the Utes’ defense could be the strength of the team. The Utes are allowing a mere 17.0 points per game on 2.9 yards per rush play, 5.3 yards per pass play and 4.1 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 4.6 yards per rush attempt, 5.9 yards per pass attempt and 5.2 yards per play against a mediocre stop unit. Overall, Utah is 1.7 yards per rush play, 0.6 yards per pass play and 1.1 yards per play better than average defensively in 2014, which is strong enough to slow down a potent Washington State attack. The problem for the Cougars is the fact that they have a one-dimensional offense that simply cannot run the ball (2.5 yards per rush play against teams that would combine to yield 4.3 yards per rush play).
And, Washington State’s aerial attack, which is 0.4 yard per pass play better than average (8.3 yards per pass play against teams that would combine to allow 7.9 yards per pass play), is not good enough to have success against a very good Utah secondary. Overall, Washington State is 0.6 yards per plat better than average, but the Utes line up with a stop unit that is 1.1 yards per play better than average. In short, Utah possesses a significant advantage from the line of scrimmage in this game regardless of who has the ball. The situation also strongly favors the Utes as Washington State is coming off a game in which it nearly defeated Oregon in a game that was tied 31-31 in the fourth quarter. While Washington State is undoubtedly deflated after last week’s narrow 38-31 loss, the Utes return home for their Pac-12 college football opener off an impressive 26-10 win at Michigan.
Let’s also note that Utah takes the field with legitimate revenge after suffering a 49-37 loss in Pullman last year. Moreover, four of the last five meetings between these two teams have been decided by twelve or more points, while the home team has covered the point spread in three straight. With Utah standing at a perfect 5-0 ATS as a double-digit favorite off back-to-back SU and ATS wins, take the Utes to win its college football conference opener in convincing fashion. Lay the points in this college football contest and invest with confidence.