Keeping in mind that published point spreads are not predictions — they’re just designed to attract betting on both sides — I’ve never been more surprised by a line than Utah’s being a slight favorite at Washington.
The Utes definitely have a chance to win Saturday night in Seattle, but I would still classify it as an upset. In fact, it would be the Utes’ most significant victory in two seasons of Pac-12 play.
That’s because the Huskies have been so good this season at CenturyLink Field, the home of the Seattle Seahawks. That’s Washington’s temporary venue while Husky Stadium is being renovated.
The Huskies have beaten Stanford and Oregon State, each ranked in the Top 10 at the time, and competed well against USC. The Utes, meanwhile, have not won a road game this season, having scored only one offensive touchdown in each of their Pac-12 contests at Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon State.
So what’s changed? Obviously, Utah’s offense has come to life behind quarterback Travis Wilson and running back John White, while the defense has remained solid and the special teams have been extraordinary, with Reggie Dunn returning three kickoffs for touchdowns in two games.
The Utes routed California and Washington State at home, but they will need a complete effort to come away with even a narrow victory over Washington. The defense will keep Utah in the game, but it will take 20-plus points to win. Can Wilson, White and the Ute offense deliver that kind of production? If so, the Utes will be 5-5 and on their way to bowl eligibility. If not, they’ll have to win the last two games against Arizona and Colorado to qualify.
Idaho at BYU • Just one quick thought on this game, which should not be much of a contest: The reality of BYU’s eight-year ESPN contract is that having every home game televised is great for Cougar fans around the country, but not so much for actual ticket-holders. ESPN needs live content, and if the network wants an 8:15 p.m. kickoff in Provo in November, BYU is obligated to play along — even in the snow.
I’m not sure BYU administrators anticipated this aspect of the deal, but they have to live with it. Of course, they get to sit inside Saturday night.