The Utah Utes will look to become the first college football team to knock off the Washington Huskies in the 2023 college football season.
The Huskies have started the season 9-0 and are ranked No. 5 in the College Football Playoff Rankings. If the Huskies can win out the rest of their season and win the Pac-12 Championship, Washington would more than likely make the College Football Playoff as a top-four seed.
That’s because Ohio State and Michigan are ahead of the Huskies but will play each other in a few weeks. One of those teams will lose, promoting Washington into the top four. That scenario is very probable as long as the Huskies can stay undefeated.
But they’ve got a challenging task on their hands this weekend. The Utah Utes have won back-to-back Pac-12 Championships and earned a 55-3 win over Arizona State. They’re now 7-2 with a backup quarterback handling the snaps.
Can Washington escape a pesky Utah team on Saturday to keep their CFP hopes alive?
Below, we’ll share our Utah vs Washington expert pick for this Pac-12 top-25 matchup on Saturday.
Location: Husky Stadium
Utah vs Washington Expert Pick & Analysis
The Utah Utes have covered in three of their last four NCAAF games. During the season, the Utes have gone 5-3-1 against the spread. But after a 52-point explosion against Arizona State, the Utes have a lot of momentum heading into their games against Washington.
Meanwhile, the total has hit the Under in six of nine games this year. That’s primarily due to the defense playing more consistently than the offense this season.
On the other hand, Washington failed to cover four straight games before earning a 2.5-point spread win against USC. The Huskies won that game 52-42 and have now scored 94 points total in their last eight quarters.
With that, Washington has seen the Over hit in five of nine games. They’ve got the leading Heisman candidate, Michael Penix Jr., on their side, which has helped the total of the majority of games reach the Over.
Washington has defeated Utah in five of its last six games, with the most recent on November 28, 2020. Washington escaped Utah with a 24-21 win, but Utah covered as a nine-point underdog.
Did The Utes Run Up The Score?
The Utah Utes defeated Arizona State, 55-3, but scored a late touchdown when they didn’t have to. Many fans and journalists were unhappy with Utah’s sportsmanship. However, Arizona State’s head coach, Kenny Dillingham, didn’t blame Utah.
Instead, he blamed himself and his team, saying that Arizona State’s job is to stop them.
Thankfully, there’s no bad blood or ill will towards either program. But it’s unlikely that Utah will have to worry about running up the score against Washington as a nine-point underdog on Saturday.
Penix Jr. In Prime Position For The Heisman
After Washington added 52 points against USC on Saturday, the 6th-year senior, Michael Penix Jr., only increased his odds of winning the Heisman this year.
Penix Jr. has thrown for over 3,200 yards, with 26 passing touchdowns and seven interceptions. His QBR of 84.4 is the fourth-best in the nation.
While he wasn’t incredible against USC last weekend, Penix Jr. still threw for 256 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He didn’t have to dominate, knowing how good the run game was performing.
Can Utah’s Offense Stick Around?
Without Cam Rising, the Utah Utes have struggled to find consistent offense this season. They’ve added 25 points but are averaging just 5.15 yards per play this season.
While the Utes didn’t settle on Bryson Barnes at quarterback to begin the season, he’s now the confirmed starter for the rest of the NCAAF schedule. Barnes has a 55.1 QBR, with eight touchdowns and five interceptions on the season. Although he’s thrown 146 passing attempts, he’s only completed 86 passes and has thrown for under 1,000 yards so far this season.
It’s likely that he struggles against Washington’s secondary. The Huskies are a dominant defense, but there’s no better position group on defense than the secondary.
While Washington has allowed 4.38 yards per game on the ground, Utah has only earned 4.40 yards per game on the ground. Don’t expect the Utes to dominate in the ground game. Plus, the passing game with Barnes has never been elite this year.
On the other hand, Michael Penix Jr. and the Washington offense are very elite. The offense has earned 41.7 points per game while adding 7.97 yards per play. Penix Jr. has been one of the best quarterbacks in college football, while Dillon Johnson earned his first breakout game of the season last week against USC, with 26 carries for 256 yards.
Washington also has one of the best wide receiver rooms in America. So, while Utah has held teams to 15.9 points per game, Washington’s offense should still succeed against the Utes. Don’t expect Utah’s offense to stay toe-to-toe.