For the second week in a row, the Cougar defense faces a QB whom you will not find in the top 10 nationally in yards passing, yet Travis Wilson looks to pose a similar threat as Marcus Mariota did to the WSU secondary.
Wilson lands at No. 5 in the country in yards per attempt and is 3rd in the country in touchdown percentage. The Utes only pass the ball about 28 times a game, but Wilson makes sure they get the most they can through the air and is yet to throw an interception.
On the flip side, the Utes defense has been playing very well against the pass. They've held their opponents to the lowest yards per attempt of any team the Cougs have faced thus far. The caveat to that stat is they're yet to face a top 70 passing offense in that category (Idaho State is FCS, Fresno State ranks 114th in YPA, Michigan ranks 75th, WSU 34th). If you look at passing yards per game, they're yet to face an offense in the top 50 nationally (WSU ranks 1st).
That isn't a knock on Utah, you can only play who's on the schedule, but it bodes well for the WSU passing attack.
Looking again at Utah's offense, the Utes rank 43rd in the nation in yards per play (WSU is 18th) and 40th in total yards per game (WSU is 12th).
While that stat line isn't overly impressive, they have the second highest point differential of anyone in the Pac-12.
So how are they doing it?
If you look at the tabs comparing offense and defense you will see that Utah rarely turns the ball over and puts heavy pressure on the opposing QB (doesn't hurt that they're also taken 2 punts and 1 kick off to the house through 3 games).
That combined with the efficient and explosive play of Wilson has had the Utes rolling.
With the spread sitting at Utah -13.5, do the Cougs have a chance?
They do, but the margin for error vs Utah is very slim.
Connor Halliday going 63 attempts vs Oregon without a pick was a perfect performance, while the Utes hadn't forced an interception until last week; the pessimist in me feels like he is due.
This game has "what might have been" written all over it. When the clock reads zeros, I think we'll be able to point to 2 or 3 plays that swung the game in either direction.
My hope is that the O-line gives up zero sacks, the D-line plays like they did vs Oregon and both units get sent out for a much more celebratory post-game press conference than last time the Cougs visited Salt Lake City.
Navigating the views:
- Use the conference filters to drill down beyond the national scale
- Lasso or click a logo to filter the tables
- Color legend for view focusing on comparing teams, Utah: black relates to passing , red relates to rushing ; WSU: crimson relates to passing, gray relates to rushing