Washington State (3-1, 0-1) welcomes the Utah Utes (2-1, 0-1) to Martin Stadium for Homecoming Week. The Cougs, riding a 9-game win streak at home, are looking for their first win in conference play after falling to USC just last week.
All eyes will be on the Palouse when the Air Raid offense squares off against the top pass defense in the nation. The Cougars have won the last three meetings against Utah and lead the all-time series by a slight 8-7 margin.
Washington State owns a more impressive 3-1 advantage over Utah in the Leach-era and has not lost to the Utes since 2012. The lopsided 49-6 affair nearly ended in a shutout before Jeff Tuel and Kristoff Williams synced up for a score as time expired.
“All of our Utah games other than the first time we ever played them have been battles,” Head Coach Mike Leach said in his Monday presser. “Its kind of gone our way, but I think this will be a battle too.”
And after falling to Washington 21-7 in their conference opener, you can bet the Utes are looking to make some noise on both sides of the ball. Their stars, coming off a bye week, will be rested and ready for the road trip.
Highlighting Utah’s backfield is Zach Moss. After a solid 2017 campaign, Moss was named to the Maxwell Award and Doak Walker Award preseason watchlist. So far this year, the 5-foot-10 junior has found his way to the end zone in all three of his games. Additionally, he averages more than 6 yards per carry on 45 attempts.
As for when Utah elects to air it out, keep an eye on sophomore Britain Covey. The receiver has picked up 23 receptions for 262 yards. While Covey is yet to find the end zone, the Utah native is likely to move the sticks more than Cougs fans will appreciate.
On defense, expect linebacker Chase Hansen to give Washington State fits. Checking nearly every box you’d expect from a standout linebacker, the senior has recorded 6 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and an interception.
But of Course, a team is only as good as their head coach. Kyle Whittingham is quietly one of the nation’s premier coaches and has a loyalty to Utah that money cannot buy.
He cards a 113-57 all-time record in Salt Lake and was named Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year in 2008. Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, Utah is a perfect 6-0 in bowl games and claimed the South Division in 2015.
“They’re a real fundamental group. They don’t try to fool you. They just come right at you,” Leach said. “It doesn’t surprise me one bit they’re on top of this conference in defense based on all the other times we’ve played them in the past.”
With a betting line that will hover anywhere between .5 to 3.5 points in favor of the Cougs, expect this one to be a dogfight. Utah will exchange blows with Washington State down to the final few minutes.
If a tie was possible in college ball, this would not be a bad one to call; however, we’ll take the betting line and give WSU the homefield edge.
Cougs extend their home streak to 10 games, 27-24.