- Fresh off a statement-making victory in the Apple Cup, Washington is riding a wave of momentum into the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday night.
Utah vs. Washington (-5)
Fri. 11/30, 8:00 p.m. ET in Santa Clara, CA
Three things you need to know before betting on Utah-Washington:
1. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Washington is 5-1 straight up and 3-3 against the spread when facing Utah. The two teams met in Utah earlier in the year, and the Huskies won that game 21-7 as four-point road favorites. The stakes are obviously higher in Friday's Pac-12 Championship Game, but Washington should be better suited to deal with the pressure that comes with a contest like this. Not only is Washington the only team of the two that has played in a Pac-12 Championship Game—they won it back in 2016—but they are also coming off of a huge 28-15 road win over Washington State in the Apple Cup. That game featured some enormous stakes, with the Cougars boasting a top-10 tanking and a spot in this weekend's game on the line. Another thing worth keeping an eye on is the fact that Chris Petersen is 11-5 against the spread when favored by 3.5 to 10 points as the head coach of Washington.
2. This hasn’t quite been the most impressive year of Jake Browning’s Washington career, but the senior is battle tested and knows how to win games. In last week’s win over Washington State, Browning completed 11 of his 14 pass attempts for 207 yards despite passing through heavy snow. He didn’t throw for any scores in the game, but he was moving the chains and halting the Cougars’ momentum whenever he needed to. And while Browning only threw for 155 yards with a touchdown and a pick in the win over the Utes in Utah earlier in the season, he should be in for a much better game here. Browning plays his best football when playing at home, and while this might not be a home game, it’s expected that the Huskies faithful will have the numbers here. It also helps that what was once a dominant Utes defense has slipped a bit lately. Utah comes into this game having allowed at least 25 points in four of its past six games. The team also hasn’t faced a running back quite like UW's Myles Gaskin in that span. The senior has rushed for at least 100 yards in three straight games, and he found the end zone three times against Wazzu last week. Look for him to show out in this one, much like he did when he rushed for 143 yards and a touchdown against Utah in September.
3. In last week’s win over Washington State, the Huskies showed just how good their defense can be. This Washington team is ranked eighth in the nation in scoring defense at 16.5 points allowed per game. That’s impressive to begin with, but it’s even better when considering the fact that the Pac-12 features a number of teams that pride themselves on scoring the football.
Ben Burr-Kirven is a player to watch on Friday night. The senior linebacker has recorded double-digit tackles in all but two games this season, and he’ll be extra motivated knowing that this is his last chance to win a conference championship. A telling defensive number when looking at this game is that Washington has a top-20 rushing defense this year in allowing 121.8 yards per game on the ground. Considering the running game is such a big part of Utah’s offense, it’s going to be hard for them to put points on the board against this Huskies front. And itt doesn’t help that the Utes haven’t had the most consistent play under center this year.
Pick: Washington (-5)
Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)