College Football
Preview
Washington State at Utah
When: 5:30 PM ET, Saturday, November 11, 2017
Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah

With Luke Falk, the Pac-12’s new career passing yardage leader, running the attack, Mike Leach’s Washington State offense garners most of the headlines. But it’s the 20th-ranked Cougars’ underrated defense which has host Utah’s full attention heading into Saturday’s game in Salt Lake City.



Washington State ranks in the top 10 nationally in total defense (297.5 yards allowed per game) and passing defense (161.1 yards) while ranking third in the conference in scoring (22.7 points allowed) and rushing defense (136.4 yards) and first in opponent first downs (14.1). Much of the credit belongs to defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa, who’s tied for the league lead in sacks (6.5) and ranks seventh nationally in tackles for loss (1.7 per game), and linebacker Frankie Luvu, who’s tied for sixth with 5.5 sacks and also has 9.5 tackles for loss. Last week, in a 24-21 win over visiting Stanford, the Cougars held the Cardinal to 198 yards and nine first downs, including a season-low 69 yards for national rushing leader Bryce Love, who entered the contest averaging 208 yards per outing. “(Washington State is) among the best defenses in the Pac-12 and the country, and that’s really made them a complete football team,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Monday at his weekly news conference. “They’re hard to deal with. … They play exceptionally hard. All 11 hats are running to the football on every snap.”

TV: 5:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network. LINE: Washington State -1

ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12): The Cougars enter the weekend a half-game behind Washington for the Pac-12 North lead, and will have two weeks following Saturday’s game to prepare for the Nov. 25 Apple Cup showdown against the Huskies in Seattle. With 291.3 passing yards per game, Falk ranks second in the conference and 15th nationally, and last week completed 34-of-48 attempts for 337 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Stanford. Falk’s top target is wideout Tavares Martin Jr., who ranks fifth in the Pac-12 in receptions (6.1) and receiving yards (78.3), but the QB does not have a reliable ground game with the Cougars ranking last in the conference at 85.7 yards.

ABOUT UTAH (5-4, 2-4): The Utes snapped out of a four-game skid last Friday with a 48-17 home win over a Josh Rosen-less UCLA squad as quarterback Tyler Huntley rolled up 327 total yards of offense and threw for four scores. Zack Moss hit career highs in rushing attempts (23) and yards (153) while adding a pair of TDs on the ground, but he’ll obviously find the going much tougher this week against the Cougars. The Utah defense has an even 10 fumble recoveries and 10 interceptions and ranks right behind Washington State in scoring (23.1 points surrendered) and total defense (345.8 yards).

EXTRA POINTS

1. The two teams haven’t met since 2014, and the all-time series is tied 7-7, including 2-2 since Utah joined the Pac-12 in 2011.

2. Washington State’s win over Stanford capped an all-time program-best 7-0 home record, but the Cougars are only 1-2 on the road so far, including lopsided losses at California (37-3) and Arizona (58-37) on their last two trips away from home.

3. Give the Utes the advantage on special teams as they lead the nation in field goals made (21), net punting (44.9 yards) and punt-return defense (-4.0 yards).



PREDICTION: Washington State 27, Utah 24


Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W‑L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf Conf
Washington State 8-2 W1 33.0 22.7 7-0 1-2 0-1 0-0 5-2
Utah 5-4 W1 29.4 23.1 3-2 2-2 2-1 0-0 2-4
Last Meeting
Washington State Utah
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
9/27/14 WSU 28 UTAH 27 495 78 417 357 192 165
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Washington State C. Halliday 63.9 417 4 2
Utah T. Wilson 47.4 165 0 0
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Washington State G. Wicks 11 56 5.1 0
Utah D. Booker 24 178 7.4 1
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Washington State R. Cracraft 9 126 14.0 0
Utah K. Scott 7 70 10.0 0
Touchdowns Player TD
Washington State V. Mayle 2
Utah D. Booker 1
Season
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Washington State L. Falk 68.3 2913 26 8
Utah T. Huntley 66.8 1648 12 6
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Washington State J. Morrow 74 479 6.5 3
Utah Z. Moss 138 740 5.4 5
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Washington State T. Martin Jr. 55 705 12.8 10
Utah D. Carrington II 58 830 14.3 6
Touchdowns Player TD
Washington State T. Martin Jr. 10
Utah D. Carrington II 6
Quickchart Matchup
Washington State Washington State Off vs  Utah Utah Def
Washington State 466.7 yards
Utah 345.3 yards
Washington State 3.2 yards/rush
Utah 4.3 yards/rush
Washington State 7.1 yards/attempt
Utah 6.1 yards/attempt
Utah Utah Off vs  Washington State Washington State Def
Utah 416 yards
Washington State 297.9 yards
Utah 4.3 yards/rush
Washington State 4 yards/rush
Utah 7.4 yards/attempt
Washington State 5.9 yards/attempt