It hasn’t been a pretty season in the Pac-12 and that’s why the championship Game features two teams with three losses each. Washington somehow made it again, while Utah was the best of a bunch of bad teams in the South division. The Huskies opened as -4.5 point favorites with an over/under of 43.5 (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) for the Game at Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers.
These teams met earlier in the season when Washington actually still had hopes for the College Football Playoff. It was an ugly Game that featured less than 600 yards of total offense, but Washington capitalized on three Utah turnovers and ended up winning comfortably 21-7 on the road. Of course, while that was a 14-point Game, neither team had a noticeable edge. Both ran for 4.2 yards per carry and neither quarterback threw for more than 155 yards. It’s likely this matchup will go the same way as these teams are in the same mold, both stout defensively and a run-first mentality on offense.
The biggest problem for Utah is that it will be without the quarterback and running back it had in the first meeting as Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss are out for the season due to injury. Freshman Jason Shelley has been fine under center, but he hasn’t been asked to do much in three starts and that’s how it’s supposed to be for the offense. Armand Shyne has taken over the in the backfield with help from TJ Green, but those guys aren’t producing as much as Moss. Shyne has just 102 yards in the last two Games and will likely struggle in another difficult matchup. But as long as the Utes don’t turn the ball over like last Game, they’ll have a chance to compete and even win.
The Huskies are far from dominant and needed a little help from the weather in order to take down Washington State last weekend. This is still a team that lost 12-10 to Cal and struggled to beat teams like UCLA and Stanford. They still have a great defense, similar to Utah, but offense is another question.
The biggest positive is that UW at least has its usual guys on the offensive end between Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin. Browning has simply been a Game manager this year having failed to surpass 243 passing yards in his last six Games. He wasn’t asked to do much in the first meeting with 155 yards on 14-of-24 passing and that’ll likely be the case again. Myles Gaskin will again be fed close to 30 times and that’s been enough for this team the last three weeks as he’s averaged 150 rushing yards in that period. Gaskin’s overall numbers had been down, but that recent improvement could be a problem for Utah. Gaskin wasn’t amazing in that first meeting, yet still went for 143 yards and broke off a 38-yarder.
But again, this Washington team isn’t built to run up the Scoreon opponents unless it gets help from the other team and if Shelley and Shyne can’t hold onto the ball, it could be a long day for the Utes. But if not, this Game should be close the entire way.
The Utes are 6-1 ATS in their last seven Conference Games and 10-3-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. The Huskies are 1-4 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and 1-7 ATS in their last eight Conference Games, with that lone cover being last week in the snowstorm. The underdog is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings between these schools and the over is 4-1 in the last five.
Our Pick – Utah +5.5 (wait to see if any +6s pop up!)