Washington-Utah Betting Guide: Can Utes Best Huskies’ Secondary in Pac-12 Championship?

Washington-Utah Betting Guide: Can Utes Best Huskies’ Secondary in Pac-12 Championship? article feature image

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Britain Covey and Myles Gaskin

Washington-Utah Betting Odds, Pick in Pac-12 Championship

  • Odds: Washington -5
  • Over/Under: 45
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV: FOX

>> All odds as of Thursday morning. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and track your bets.

Washington is 11-1 all-time vs. Utah and has won three straight against the Utes. One of those wins came earlier this year in Salt Lake City, when Washington won, 21-7, as four-point road favorites in a game dominated by both defenses.

That said, the game was much closer than the final score indicates, as Utah turned it over on downs in Washington territory three times in the second half. The Utes also had two starting defenders thrown out for targeting calls.

Without its starting quarterback this week, can Utah pull off the upset against a Washington team that’s failed to live up to expectations this season?

Tracking Odds Movement for Utah-Washington

By Danny Donahue

After opening at -4, Washington is now up to -5, and even -5.5 at a few books thanks to some heavy support. In what’ll be Friday’s most heavily-bet game across all sports, the Huskies have drawn 68% of bets and 81% of money wagered to help increase this spread.

But while they’ve taken a clear liking to Washington, bettors haven’t been as sold on the over/under, which is currently seeing 50% of tickets on both sides. The under has seen a significantly higher percentage of dollars (84%), but this total has stayed at 45 since Monday afternoon.

Notable Injuries

By Stuckey

Utah is a much different team now than it was during its last game against Washington after losing its starting quarterback and running back to injury.

Washington can say the same, but on a much better note, as it recently got freshman All-American tight end Hunter Bryant back from injury. Bryant came up huge against Washington State with three catches for 108 yards and a touchdown, and could be the difference once again against Utah.

How Has Utah’s Offense Changed Since Injuries?

By Steve Petrella

As Stuckey mentioned, Utah is without starting quarterback Tyler Huntley and starting running back Zack Moss.

On the surface, the Utes haven’t really suffered. They’ve scored between 30 and 35 points in all three games since losing those two.

The Utes have played three defenses ranked in the S&P+ top-70 in those games — Oregon (69), Colorado (63) and BYU (33). The average rank of the defenses Utah played in the first nine games is 56.5, so there hasn’t been a dramatic drop in competition level.

But there were some problems last week against BYU.

The first sign of trouble did come last week against the Cougars’ pass defense, which ranks 15th in yards per attempt allowed. Utah’s new quarterback, Jason Shelley, completed 18 of 29 passes for just 141 yards, and the Utes stormed back from down 20-0 at halftime to win 35-27.

Shelley will face an even better pass defense on Friday. Washington ranks 10th in yards per attempt allowed and 22nd in S&P+ pass defense.

Special Teams Mismatch

By Stuckey

In what many anticipate will be a low-scoring and tight Pac-12 title game, special teams could make all the difference. And if you’re looking for the team more likely to make a big play on special teams, it’s Utah by a country mile.

Utah should dominate field position all night, thanks to senior punter Mitch Wishnowsky — a 2016 Ray Guy Award winner and 2017 finalist, who finds himself as one of three finalists once again this season. Not surprisingly, the Utes average 40.6 net yards per punt (14th in country), while Washington averages just 33.75 (121st).

The Utes will also have the edge in the kicking game, as senior kicker and 2017 Lou Groza Award winner Matt Gay has a much more reliable leg than Washington freshman kicker Peyton Henry.

Gay has connected on 20 of his last 22 field goal attempts — with the only two misses coming from over 50 yards. On the other hand, Henry has missed five of his 19 attempts this season, including three from under 40 yards. Henry is just 1-for-3 from more than 40 yards and has never even attempted a field goal from beyond 50. Meanwhile, Gay has connected on 35 of 36 under 40 and has drilled seven field goals of 50+ yards in his two years as Utah’s kicker.

The advanced metrics confirm the above, as Washington has the 115th ranked S&P+ Special Teams unit, while Utah boasts the seventh-best.

The Case for Betting Washington

By Ken Barkley

I think I’m on an island at our company in saying I like Washington at -5, but here we are. Although anyone backing Utah will make convincing points about Washington’s early-season victory over Utah being misleading, and Utah’s great advantages on special teams (all of it true), I think you’re getting Washington at its absolute best here.

The Huskies have undoubtedly annoyed bettors basically the entire season. In every big spot the whole year, they’ve failed to cover (3-9 ATS vs. the Pinnacle closing spread) and with such lofty expectations coming in, that hurt a lot of people’s wallets, I’m sure.

But after having their value finally depressed in the market week after week, they were actually an underdog for the first time since the Auburn opener, and exceeded expectations in the Apple Cup. I think it’s likely this uptick we’ve all anticipated for months continues through Friday.

Last week was an incredible matchup for Washington (and the weather helped, too) but even if the opinion is improved in the market off that win, what’s really happening here with this number? Washington closed -5 at Pinnacle for its game at Utah early in the season, the Utes are undoubtedly worse thanks to key injuries, and Washington has a healthy running back Myles Gaskin back, as well as tight end Hunter Bryant.

The game is being played on a neutral field Friday, but they’re still giving just five points. Even if you think Utah’s injury replacements aren’t a significant downgrade, I think you are actually getting a reasonable discount here with the Huskies, something I have basically never been able to say this season until last Friday.

I also think it’s relevant to point out that now defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake has a reasonable amount of tape on what Utah’s offense wants to do with Huntley and Moss out, and I would trust Lake to game-plan effectively for that.

Models and predictions will have this game much closer to a pick-em, and sometimes they are best at seeing what humans cannot, and quantifying it. To me, this is a situation where the information feeding that prediction is tainted by a Washington that’s now better than it was in those previous games, and a Utah that’s now worse.

Barkley’s Pick: I will be betting the Huskies at under a touchdown.

The Case for Betting Utah

By Collin Wilson

The handicap should begin with the Week 3 win and cover by Washington on the road. The Huskies may have won by 14 points, but a difference in total yards of 66 with an average yards per rush of 4.2 for both teams shows an evenly matched ballgame.

Utah never scored after the first quarter, as Tyler Huntley’s interception before halftime left the Utes deflated. Utah’s first two possessions in the second half resulted in a fumble lost, as the Washington defense took over the remainder of the game. Without the three turnovers, Utah would have challenged the 5.5-point spread.

The Pac-12 Championship Game point spread may be a bit inflated after Utah struggled against BYU last week and Washington’s win in the Apple Cup. The Action Network power ratings make this Washington -1.5, while S&P+ has this closer Washington -1.

Historically, this is a series owned by Washington. Although the Huskies finished by winning nine of 11 after falling to Auburn, the Huskies have covered just one spread in the past seven games. The Huskies have not been stellar away from home this season, with a non-cover to UCLA and losses to Auburn, Oregon and Cal. The Apple Cup was a rare road cover for Washington, but I believe it had more to do with familiarity of scheme.

While I still think Washington can win and cash those Pac-12 Championship futures tickets, I will be waiting for the point spread to have resistance before placing a wager on Utah. Freshman Jason Shelley has been serviceable at quarterback and Utah boasts a much better special teams unit.

Collin’s Pick: I will wait for Utah +7 before investing.

Key Trends for Utah-Washington

By Evan Abrams

—Since Kyle Whittingham took over as Utah’s coach in 2005, the Utes are 35-22-2 ATS (61.4%) as an underdog.

—Whittingham is the 10th-most profitable coach as a dog in our Bet Labs database and when he faces a team above .500 as an underdog, Utah is 27-14-1 ATS (65.9%), the third-most profitable coach in the Bet Labs database in that spot behind just Bill Snyder and Tom O’Brien.

By John Ewing

—Washington enters the Pac-12 title game following a 28-15 victory over No. 8 Washington State in the Apple Cup. Ranked teams are overvalued following a win against a top 10 opponent.

Since 2005, these teams have gone 105-136-2 (44%) ATS in their next game.

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