Time, Place and [Radio Waves in] Space • The Utes host Washington State in a Pac-12 Conference game at Rice-Eccles Stadium at 3:30 p.m. (MST) Saturday. You can watch on Pac-12 Network or listen on ESPN 700 AM, Sirius XM 93/XM 198, Internet 960.
Line • Washington State is a 1-point favorite as of Friday.
Opposing coach • Mike Leach is in his sixth season as the Cougars’ coach. He won the 2015 co-Pac-12 Coach of the Year and has led the team to three bowl appearances in the previous five seasons. He has compiled a 121-79 career record, including a 37-36 record (25-27 Pac-12) at Washington State. Leach, a native of Cody, Wyo., spent 10 seasons as Texas Tech’s coach before coming to Washington State. He won a school-record 84 games at Texas Tech. He won three national coach of the year awards in 2008 when he guided the team to an 11-2 record. Before Texas Tech, he spent a season directing the offense at Oklahoma under coach Bob Stoops. His stint at Oklahoma followed stints as offensive coordinator under coach Hal Mumme at Kentucky, Valdosta State and Iowa Wesleyan College. Leach’s coaching stops also include Finland (European Football League), the College of the Desert and Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
Utah ties • Cougars coach Mike Leach graduated from BYU in 1983. Cougars starting quarterback Luke Falk is from Logan, and graduated from Logan High School. He earned first-team Tribune All-State honors as a senior and passed for 3,618 yards and 36 touchdowns. He set Utah prep records for single-season pass attempts and completions. Current Lehi starting quarterback Cammon Cooper has committed verbally to play for Washington State. Cooper set state single-game records for passing touchdowns (10), completions (44), attempts (74) and yards (609) earlier this season.
Game day threads • The Utes will wear red jerseys with white numbers outlined in black, and red, white and black striped sleeves as well as red and black stripes going down the side of white pants. They’ll wear white helmets with red and black stripes on the top and the Circle and Feathers logo on the side. The Utes also will wear a commemorative logo on their warmups in honor of Veterans Day.
Pregame quotable • Washington State coach Mike Leach on Utah’s offense under Troy Taylor’s direction: “They’re still real physical offensively. The biggest difference I see is kind of the characteristics of various players, and they’re inclined to throw it a little more. I think there’s some similarity, too. They still run the quarterback around some.”
Media guide nugget • The biggest player on the Washington State roster is left guard Cody O’Connell, who is 6 foot 9 and 368 pounds. O’Connell, a redshirt senior, was a finalist for the Outland Trophy as well as the program’s second unanimous All-American last year. The American Football Coaches Association, Associated Press, ESPN, CBSSports.com, Football Writers Association of America, FOXSports.com, Pro Football Focus, SB Nation, The Sporting News, SI.com and USA Today named him a first-team all-American. Pro Football Focus rated him the second-best offensive lineman in the country last season.
Telling stat • Washington State has committed 11 turnovers in its two losses this season. Washington State quarterbacks threw four interceptions in a loss at Arizona, and they threw five at Cal to along with a pair of fumbles recovered by Cal.
Cougars offensive outlook • Washington State returned seven starters from last year’s team, including senior quarterback Luke Falk, who recently became the conference’s all-time leader in passing yards. Falk has been named one of 16 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s top quarterback. Redshirt senior running back Gerard Wicks is the returning starter, but Jamal Morrow (479 yards) and James Williams (372 yards) have moved to the forefront this year. Washington State has averaged 10 receivers catching a pass per game this season. It was the only team in the country with five players with 40 catches or more last year. Williams leads the team with 56 receptions, while Tavares Martin Jr. leads with 705 yards receiving and eight touchdowns.
Cougars defensive outlook • Nine starters returned from last year’s unit that ranked third in the Pac-12 against the rush. They come into this week ranked 10th in FBS in total yards allowed per game and ninth in pass efficiency defense. Defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa has been named one of 18 semifinalists for the Bednarik Award. He ranks seventh in FBS in tackles for loss (1.7 per game) and second in the conference in sacks (6.5). Senior linebacker Frankie Luvu is tied for fifth in the Pac-12 in sacks (5.5). Sophomore safety Jalen Thompson earned ESPN.com True Freshman All-American recognition last season. Redshirt freshman linebacker Jahad Woods has started seven games and has 36 tackles (3.5 for a loss). Wood recorded his first sack last week against Stanford.
Cougars special teams outlook • Kicker Erik Powell won two straight Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors after performances against USC (3 for 3 on field goals) that included the game-winning field goal. He hit four field goals, including a career-high 52-yard kick, the following week at Oregon. He has the third-best field goal percentage in program history, and his 15 field goals are tied for third in the conference this season. Jamal Morrow handles punt return duties, but has averaged just 4.1 yards per return with a long of 16 yards. Robert Taylor has been the primary kickoff returner. He has averaged 19 yards per return. The Cougars don’t have a kick or punt return for a touchdown. Punter Kyle Sweet has averaged 38.2 yards per punt, and he has had six punts downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Powell also has punted at times this season. Powell has averaged 39.7 yards per punt, and four of his 15 punts have gone 50 yards or more.
Injury report • Washington State: Linebacker Peyton Pelluer suffered a season-ending foot fracture during the third week of the season. Linebacker Isaac Dotson is questionable. He hasn’t played the past three weeks due to an unspecified leg injury. Cornerback Darrien Molton has played with a wrapped cast on his left hand in recent weeks. Running back Gerard Wicks suffered a knee injury at the end of last week’s game against Stanford. Utah: Safety Marquise Blair is out for the season with a lower leg injury. Right guard Jordan Agasiva is questionable after missing two weeks with a foot/ankle injury. Wide receiver Darren Carrington II also is questionable after leaving last week’s game against UCLA with a leg/foot injury.
Three Big Questions
1. Can the Utah defense shut down Luke Falk and the Washington State passing attack?
Falk set the conference’s record for all-time passing yards last week. The Cougars pass for the second-highest average per game (381.7 yards) in Football Bowl Subdivision. Falk ranks seventh in FBS in touchdown passes (26) and fourth in completion percentage (68.3 percent).
2. What kind of encore will the Utah offense produce after last week’s offensive explosion?
The Utes hadn’t scored more than 30 points against a Pac-12 opponent this season before scoring 48 against UCLA, including 31 points in the second half. The Utes gained 506 yards of total offense last week, but Washington State’s defense ranks 10th in the country in yards allowed per game (297.5). The Cougars held Stanford star running back Bryce Love to 69 yards rushing last week. The Cougars already have shut out two opponents this season (Colorado and Montana State).
3. Will the road woes continue for Washington State?
The Cougars have earned seven of their eight wins at home this season. The Cougars have gone 1-2 with a bevy of turnovers away from Pullman, Wash.. The Cougars suffered losses at California and Arizona. The Cougars were ranked No. 8 in the AP poll before their loss to a Cal team that hadn’t won a conference game going into that weekend. Cal’s defense also registered nine sacks in a 37-3 win. The Cougars gave up 58 points in a loss at Arizona.