Utah takes on Washington State tomorrow at 1:30 MST in what is the most important game of the season up to this point. The Utes come in at 4-6 and without a few key players. The Utes hope to still become bowl eligible, but will need a win against Washington State on Saturday and another win next week against Colorado to make that happen. Washington State is a mere 1 point favorite heading into the game against the Utes. Washington State is a 5-5 football team, but boasts wins over USC, Arizona, and Cal. They also had a narrow 1 touchdown loss early in the season to currently 6th ranked Auburn. The Cougars were driving late in that game when a 4th quarter drive stalled at the Auburn 25 yard line with 4 minutes to play in the game.
Washington State is coming off perhaps their biggest win of the season when they went into Tucson, and upended Arizona, 24-17. The Utes may have something to hang their hat on though. The Cougars may be the oddest team in the conference not having won a home conference game since November 12, 2011. If the Cougars lose this game Saturday it will mark the second complete season in which they failed to win a conference home game.
The Cougars love to throw the ball having thrown it 577 times while running only 183 times. Connor Halliday will take the snaps, or should I say shotgun snaps from center against the Utes. Halliday has been a jeckle and hyde type quarterback this year having thrown 22 touchdowns, but while also throwing 19 interceptions.
Marcus Mason runs the ball in those rare instances when they do run the football, and Teondray Caldwell also gets a few carries per game. When they do get the ball down near the goalline though, look for Jeremiah Laufasa to get the ball. He only has 34 carries on the season, but 7 of them have resulted in touchdowns.
Gabe Marks would have to be considered the main receiver for the Cougars, but they do spread the ball around as they have 7 receivers with over 30 catches, and another 3 with over 20 catches. It’s not odd to see them complete passes to over 10 receivers per game. Don’t be surprised to see Halliday throw the ball 50 or 60 times. Halliday recently attempted 89 passes, which was an FBS record in a loss to the Oregon Ducks in which he piled up 557 yards of offense through the air. He also completed 58 passes in the loss which was a Pac 12 record.
The Utes will need to slow down the Cougars attack in the air, and force turnovers. The Utes are dead last in the country in Interceptions with only 2 of them all year. They will need to get at least 1 or 2 in this game if they are to have a chance of winning in Pullman. Halliday has thrown at least 1 interception in every game this season. It doesn’t seem to faze Halliday when he throws an interception. He usually comes right back slinging the ball around the lot.
The Utes offense will have to find ways to score as well, as they have struggled this year scoring the football especially over the past 3 games only averaging 14 points per game. This Washington State defense is not as good as the other defenses that the Utes have seen though. The other 3 defenses are ranked 8th, 16th, and 43rd in the nation in points allowed while the Cougars are 90th at over 30 points per game given up.
Can the Utes recapture the magic of the early season and take one step closer to bowl eligibility, or will the Cougars become bowl eligible for the first time since 2003? Find out tomorrow at 1:30 MST.