When the betting line opened with Utah as a 6.5 point favorite, I was mildly surprised. I really expected Utah to be about a two or three point favorite. Not that I know anything about betting on football or what a teaser, parlay or money line bet means.
Ok, so maybe I know a little bit, but that’s only what my grandma used to tell me about betting on college football.
Anyway, what’s been surprising is that the line not only started at 6.5 but it’s moved up to 10 as of a few minutes ago. That means a lot of people are betting on Utah. I heard a couple of people joke about the LDS wagering money on the game. But I’m not that crass. Besides, wouldn’t they wager on BYU games?
What I find odd about this whole situation is that I truly think Washington will win this game. I don’t know why I think this. You have basically each team’s strengths – Washington’s offense and Utah’s defense – going head to head. And much has been made about that.
Yet, I look at the aspect of the two team’s weaknesses – the Husky defense and the Utes offense – also meeting up in a war of attrition. A cynic would say, it boils down to which unit is less awful. But I think, both have improved somewhat as the season has gone on. It seems every week something goes wrong with the Huskies defensively. One week it’s blown assignments, the next its bad tackling or poor coverage, the next is the inability to get off the field on third down. It’s like when they fix one bugaboo, another pops up.
Meanwhile, the Utah offense has shown strides under Norm Chow. Quarterback Jordan Wynn and his throwing style that’s two parts this guy ..
… And another part this guy
… is starting to improve. They need him to be a viable option since you can expect Washington to key on John White. Wynn is completing just 54 percent of his passes. A lot of quarterbacks get healthy against the UW secondary.
So what does it all mean? Well, we have two pretty evenly matched teams squaring off. And I’m going with the better quarterback in that situation. I’m a Keith Price believer. It’s easier for Steve Sarkisian to call plays for Price. He isn’t trying to showcase Price for NFL scouts. He’s just calling plays that work. Expect Austin Seferian-Jenkins to have a big touchdown catch and Price to throw for 300 yards in a 28-24 win.
Here’s my gamebox prediction from today’s paper
WASHINGTON (3-1 OVERALL, 1-0 PACIFIC-12 CONFERENCE) AT UTAH (2-1, 0-1)
Kickoff: 4 p.m., Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City
TV: Root Sports. Radio: 950-AM.
The series: These teams have played just six times – all of them in Seattle and all UW wins. The most recent was in 1979, when the 14th ranked Huskies prevailed, 41-7.
What to watch: QB Keith Price, who leads an efficient and high-scoring UW offense, is completing 67 percent of his passes while throwing for 983 yards and an NCAA-leading 14 TDs. He spreads the wealth around, which is helpful when facing a Utah defense heavy on man-to-man coverage. The Utes have a plus-nine turnover margin, having recovered eight fumbles and made four interceptions. Utah is stout against the run, holding teams to 79 yards per game and 2.86 yards per carry. Washington will need all-conference running back Chris Polk to keep the offense balanced. Coach Steve Sarkisian was critical of his offensive line last week. … The maligned UW defense will be tested by Utes offensive coordinator Norm Chow. QB Jordan Wynn has completed 54 percent of his passes. Wynn’s top target is DeVonte Christopher, who led the Utes in receiving last season. Running back John White has changed the Utah offense by averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He rushed for 174 yards and three TDs two weeks ago against BYU. He has gained 380 yards in three games.
What’s at stake: It’s the first Pac-12 game at Rice-Eccles Stadium and it’s homecoming for the Utes. There will be plenty of fanfare. More than that, the Utes have legitimate hopes to win the Pac-12 South division. After losing to USC, Utah can’t afford another conference loss. For the Huskies, this is a winnable game that could help them keep pace with Stanford and Oregon.
The pick: Washington, 28-24.