Washington Has Edge On Offense, Utah Advantage On Defense In Pac-12 Title Game
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – When Utah and Washington face each other in the Pac-12 Championship in Santa Clara, California, there will be a lot of match ups to watch for on the field.
Washington has the advantage on offense with a senior quarterback and running back while the Utes will rely on a freshman at quarterback and a junior at running back.
The Utes defense has the edge over the Huskies on the defensive side of the football with a great defensive line and defensive backs.
Former Utah quarterback and host of KSL’s UnRivaled, Helmets Off and Rivals, Scott Mitchell says that these two teams are a “mirrored image of each other.”
Here’s the match ups and who has the advantage.
Washington quarterback Jake Browning’s 2018 season was not that great compared to past seasons. He has still managed to throw for 2,692 yards, 16 touchdowns and 9 interceptions this season. In their win over Utah in the regular season, Browning had 155 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception through the air and ran for another score.
His career at Washington is a huge advantage between the two quarterbacks as he has thrown for a school record 11,796 yard, 94 touchdowns and 33 interceptions while compiling a 38-14 career record.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jason Shelley will make his fourth start for the Utes, filling in for the injured Tyler Huntley. Shelley has thrown for 723 yards and ran for another 159 yards with six total touchdowns, three passing and three rushing. He is 3-0 as the starter.
If Zack Moss was playing for the Utes, the advantage would go that way but he isn’t and Myles Gaskin is an incredible back who mixes speed and agility very well. In the Huskies 21-7 win over Utah on September 15, Gaskin had 143 yards and one touchdown.
Gaskin is sixth in the Pac-12 in rushing yards. Moss is one spot ahead of him at No. 5. Gaskin has rushed for 1,076 yards and 10 touchdowns. His career is just as impressive as Browning’s as he has racked up 5,131 yards and 55 touchdowns.
Armand Shyne has filled in for Zack Moss nicely but it isn’t to the caliber of Gaskin. Shyne will make his fourth start for the Utes this season on Friday and has 442 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns.
This is a sliver of an edge to the Huskies. They have four receivers who have surpassed 400 receiving yards. The dynamic duo of Aaron Fuller and Ty Jones have combined for 1,223 yards and 10 touchdowns. Washington’s receivers are not taller than the Utes but they stack up well with Fuller at 5’11, Jones standing at 6’4 and Andre Baccellia at 5’10.
Utah’s receivers are younger, which is a plus for the future. They are a faster receiving group than the Huskies and are comparable in size with Britain Covey at 5’8, Jaylen Dixon standing at 5’9, Demari Simpkins at 5’10 and Siaosi Mariner, Solomon Enis and Samson Nacua all taller than six feet.
Covey leads the receivers with 631 receiving yards. Dixon is the only other receiver over 400 yards. Nacua leads the group with five touchdown catches with no other receiver catching more than two touchdowns.
The Huskies have three guys who can start at tight end. They are led by senior Drew Sample with 227 yards and two touchdowns. All three starters have over 150 yards and at least one touchdown. Six of the 18 passing touchdowns have been caught by a tight end.
Utah is young at the tight end position with their starter Jake Jackson being a junior. They have a pair of freshmen who get playing time in Brant Kuithe and Cole Fotheringham. The Utes will use their tight ends for blocking but have had success with utilizing them in the throwing game. Kuithe leads the tight ends with 191 receiving yards and Fotheringham has two touchdowns to lead the position in that category.
This is another close race as both teams are talented on the offensive line. Utah has a little more depth and experience and size than Washington that gives the Utes the advantage.
Utah has allowed 27 sacks in 12 games. The Utes average 312.2 pounds among their starting five offensive linemen. Utah has a more veteran group in the trenches with three seniors, one junior and one sophomore.
They also have more depth as they mix in Nick Ford who can play guard or tackle, as well as Lo Falemaka playing center or guard. Orlando Umana has been starting at center recently and has had success to where Falemaka moved over to left guard.
Washington has allowed 21 sacks in 12 games. The Huskies average 310.6 pounds on their offensive line that is led by junior center Nick Harris. They have just one starter that is a senior in Kaleb McGary, the rest is made up of two juniors, one sophomore and one redshirt freshman.
The Utes have seven players that they rotate in the game and all have had at least one tackle-for-loss. They are led by Bradlee Anae who is the Pac-12 Conference leader in sacks with 8, he also has 20 solo tackles and 13 tackles-for-loss.
Utah is second in the conference in sacks with 34, one behind Washington State. The defensive line has accounted for 20 and a half sacks.
Washington isn’t nearly as deep on their defensive line as the Utes. They have three down-linemen in their formation compared to Utah’s four. The starters have brought down the opposing quarterback eight times. Utah’s Bradlee Anae has that amount all by himself.
Levi Onwuzurike has 33 total tackles, five and a half tackles-for-loss and two sacks. Greg Gaines racked up 49 tackles, five tackles-for-loss, three sacks and an interception while Jaylen Johnson has collected 34 tackles, three and a half tackles-for-loss and one sack.
Looking at the numbers of these two teams’ linebackers, it is hard to decide who has the advantage. Utah accomplishes so much by using only two linebackers in their main formation while Washington uses three backers.
Washington’s Ben Burr-Kirven leads the Pac-12 in tackles with 155, which is good for third in the country. He also has four tackles-for-loss, one sack, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Utah’s Chase Hansen has collected 101 tackles, 22 tackles-for-loss, five sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.
These two are the top candidates for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Jaylon Johnson leads the Pac-12 with four interceptions. Utah has seven of their 13 interceptions made by defensive backs.
Washington has eight picks with five coming from their defensive backfield.
Utah kicker Matt Gay leads the conference in field goals made, attempted, longest made field goal and has made the most extra point attempts.
Utes punter Mitch Wishnowsky is in the top seven in every statistical category for punting.
The Utes and Huskies will face each other on Friday night at 6 p.m. for the Pac-12 Championship at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The game will be broadcast on FOX.
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