Utah vs. Washington Odds & Pick: Time to Back the Huskies?

Utah vs. Washington Odds & Pick: Time to Back the Huskies? article feature image

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham (right) and Washington Huskies head coach Chris Petersen.

Utah at Washington Odds

  • Spread: Utah -3 
  • Over/Under: 47.5
  • Time: 4 p.m. ET
  • TV: FOX

Odds as of Friday evening and via PointsBet, where Action Network users can access an exclusive promotion to get a 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).

Some may argue that all of the motivation will be on Utah’s side for this Saturday Pac-12 showdown.

Washington is 5-3 on the season and 2-3 in conference, putting them three games behind first place in the Pac-12 north with a head-to-head loss against the Ducks. Dreams of a Pac-12 repeat championship are no more.

Meanwhile, Utah sits atop the Pac-12 South with a 7-1 overall record and still has dreams of a Pac-12 title and still has an outside shot at the College Football Playoff. A loss in Seattle would certainly crush any playoff aspirations and could also ruin a shot at a return to the Pac-12 title since the Utes would lose a tiebreaker to USC.

The Utes have enormous revenge from last season when they lost twice to Washington — once in the regular season and once in the Pac 12 title, scoring a combined 10 points in the two defeats.

While all fair points, this is Washington at home coming off a bye hosting a top 10 team. The Huskies will be ready. I’m throwing any and all motivation angles out the window for this one.

There’s no doubt Utah has been absolutely rolling over the past month. The Utes have won and covered in four straight, winning by an average margin of more than 30 points per game. In those four games, they’ve averaged 36.5 points per game and held their opponents to 23 TOTAL points combined.

However, the competition wasn’t elite and I’d almost throw out the 35-0 home win over Cal and its third-string quarterback. And the only road win came in Corvallis at Oregon State albeit in dominating fashion.

Rare Home Pup

This is clearly a step up in class and venue as Washington is one of the nation’s toughest venues. It’s very rare to get Washington as a home dog. In fact, it’s only happened once since 2015: earlier this year against Oregon.

The Ducks ended up covering that game as 2.5-point favorites,  but it took a late comeback from down 10 to pull out a four-point victory. The Huskies averaged almost a full yard per play more and probably deserved the win and cover.

Keep in mind that this Huskies team is inches away from having the same record as Utah.

Plus, not only is this a major step up for Utah, it has to face Chris Petersen, one of the best game planners in the country for my money, after a bye week.

For his career, Peterson is 15-8-0 against the spread (65.2%) with 10 or more days to prepare during the regular season, covering by an average margin of over six points per game. That’s good enough for a 28% ROI. He’s also 7-4 ATS in season openers, which speaks to that point.

When Utah Has the Ball

In regards to the matchup on the field, Utah relies on a run heavy attack. The Utes have a rushing rate that ranks in the top 10 nationally. Some of that can be attributed to their blowout wins, but they still finished in the top 40 last year in Standard Downs Run Rate.

On the surface, that could spell trouble for a Washington defensive line that ranks outside the top 100 in Standard Down Line Yards, per Football Outsiders, and 98th in Rushing Success Rate.

However, the last time we saw this Washington defense, it held Oregon to 154 yards on 38 carries for an impressive 4.1 yards per carry. The run defense can take a lot from that game and now gets two weeks to prepare for Zack Moss and the explosive Utah ground game behind an offensive line playing at a high level.

The Utah offense is extremely explosive but Washington always does as good of a job as any team in the country at limiting explosive plays. After losing a ton of talent on this side of the ball, there are real signs of life from this Washington defense after some early struggles. And the bye should certainly serve the Huskies well.

When Washington Has the Ball

On the other side of the ball, the Utah defense is balling out.

The Utes have two pros in the secondary and a vicious front four on a unit that has allowed only 2.5 yards per rush (second in the nation). That said, Washington boasts one of the few offensive lines in college football that can match up with Utah in the trenches.

I think the Huskies’ front can allow Washington to have some success on the ground and provide Jacob Eason enough time in a clean pocket to efficiently move the ball through the air.

This is a very underrated Washington rushing attack, which ranks eighth in Rushing Success Rate. It’s not explosive but it can keep the chains moving.

Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Washington Huskies running back Salvon Ahmed (26).

Utah likes to play man on the outside while relying on its defensive front to generate pressure. It’s not a heavy blitzing team which I think will work in the favor of Eason, who struggles when he can’t get his feet set.

One thing to keep an eye on that could hurt Washington is the status of two of its receivers: Aaron Fuller and Puka Nacua. Fuller, the Huskies leading receiver, is listed as questionable, while rumors are swirling that talented freshman Nacua could miss Saturday with an injury sustained in practice this week.

If both are out, the Huskies would have to rely more on their talented tight ends. Overall, this is a criminally underrated offense that might be a top-10 unit in the country by many advanced metrics. It’s a highly efficient offense led by a super talented offensive line.

Over or Under?

From a pace perspective, neither team plays fast. For reference, Utah finished last year with an average Adjusted Pace while Washington finished outside the top 100.

In regards to the total, I think the only look here is the under, which has been a gold mine in Utah games this year, hitting in six straight and seven of eight overall in 2019.

Bet to Watch

Bottom line, Utah is the better team overall but I had to take +3.5 for a number of factors working in Washington’s favor.

Coming off of a bye with a great homefield certainly helps. But the two X-factors that pushed me over the edge were Huntley’s leg and Washington’s special teams advantage.

The Utah signal caller hurt his leg during the Arizona State game and has been hobbled since. That may potentially limit one aspect of the Utah rushing attack as well as Huntley’s ability to buy time in the pocket.

In regards to special teams, it seems crazy to even suggest Washington has the better special teams unit. However, Utah, which perennially has one of the best special teams in the nation, has actually struggled in that department this year.

And can you really blame them after losing senior kicker Matt Gay and senior punter Mitch Wishnowski? Those were two of the best at their respective positions over the past few seasons.

Meanwhile, after struggling in recent years on special teams, Washington has done a complete 180 in every phase. And it starts with kicker Peyton Henry, who has made all 33 extra points and 15 field goals.

Per S&P, Washington has the No. 1 rated special teams in the country this season while Utah ranks 78th, which almost seems impossible for that program.

After considering all of the above, I make this game essentially a coin flip. Would it shock me if Utah won? Certainly not. And honestly, I’d prefer a 1-point Utah victory for the sake of this bet and my Utah Pac-12 futures.

But I have to look at this game in a silo and I see value with the home pup. I’d still take Washington +3 but nothing less.

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