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Three Things To Watch: No.14 Utah Vs. Washington State

Oct 26, 2022, 9:00 AM
Cam Rising - Utah Utes vs. Washington State...
Cam Rising #7 of the Utah Utes tries to elude Peni Naulu #20 of the Washington State Cougars during their game September 25, 2021 at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY- No. 14 Utah will be on the road again after a BYE week last week to take on Washington State on Thursday night. The Utes had a spectacular win before their break at home against USC where it felt like they found some swagger in their game that had been missing to that point.

WSU on the other hand is coming off two disappointing losses to Oregon State and USC and would like to bounce back against one of the better teams in the conference at home.

Here are three things to watch as No. 14 Utah takes on Washington State in Pullman this Thursday.

Utah’s Offense Versus Washington State’s Defense

Utah’s offense under Cam Rising has the potential to be very explosive. Especially when Rising gets going with tight end Dalton Kincaid and wide receiver Devaughn Vele. However, this offense hasn’t gone against very many top-tier defenses which Washington State currently is in the Pac-12.

This game has the potential to really test how far the offensive line has come in their pass protection which has looked very good so far in 2022 as compared to seasons past.

It will also be interesting to see if WSU has an answer for Kincaid or Vele and if they can consistently keep either or both guys from being a factor in the game. (Not very many teams have had such luck.)

Adding further intrigue is what will happen with Utah’s run game? It hasn’t been as strong as most anticipated heading into the season with star Tavion Thomas having various issues that have kept him largely off the field and the team has mostly kept in-house. Do they continue to go mostly with Micah Bernard who has been beneficial in the pass game both as a blocker and potential receiver? Or did the BYE provide enough time to get a guy like Jaylon Glover or Ja’Quinden Jackson more up-to-speed with the downhill run game? Then there is even the possibility that Thomas will be of service and there was never a reason to wonder about the run game in the first place.

Utah’s Defense Versus Cam Ward

Much like USC’s Caleb Williams, Cougar quarterback Cam Ward is a bit of a Houdini being affective with his arms and legs. While Utah’s defense certainly has potential and showed some flashes at key times against Williams and the Trojans, they also have shown they can just as easily get burned.

Ward will be another big test for a defensive front seven that is still figuring some things out but should be feeling a little more confident after recording four sacks on Williams the week before. Does Utah’s front seven continue to trend in a more positive direction after having moments of success against one of the better quarterbacks and offenses not just in the Pac-12, but the entire country?

The Swag Factor

It’s been mentioned a bit throughout this article but deserves a category of its own. Utah did not come out of the gate as hot and fast as most anticipated to start the 2022 season. Despite mostly recording wins in 2022- there just was something missing in this team until they took on USC.

Yes, the defense still was not perfect and allowed a lot of yards and points. Yes, the offense left an opportunity or two on the field. However, what was present in that game that was not present in any other up to that point was a burning fire and desire to be great. That “almost cocky” attitude where everyone collectively knows they are the stuff and heaven help whoever crosses their path. It was good to see that back against the Trojans but needs to carry out through the rest of the season. It’ll be interesting to see if the Utes can pick up where they left off before the BYE or if it was just a product of being at home and celebrating the lives of their two lost teammates, Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe.

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