Wow what a week of football! Last week the Pac-12 not only proved that it’s one of the most exciting conferences but also the least predictable. Here’s a quick summary of what went down.
Colorado got it’s first win, Oregon jumped back to it’s #1 spot in the north after taking just one week off, UCLA got behind their freshman Myles Jack and set themselves up as the team to beat in the South. Arizona State continued it’s run for the South title, USC returned as a power after hitting incredible lows for Troy and Washington State positioned itself to get to a bowl for the first time in a decade!
The Cougs faced a challenge last week taking on Arizona and overcame not only an 11 point favorite in the Wildcats but also contained one of the most explosive offensive attacks in the Pac-12 while unleashing their own. The Cougs are primed for post season play if they can win one or both of their last two games depending on how the rest of the Pac-12 shakes out this week. There are plenty of scenarios to look at (See this article here) but let’s take a look at this weeks match up when Utah travels to Pullman to take on the Cougs.
What the Utes bring:
Utah is one of the most physical teams in the Pac-12, they really do match up quite well with the other really physical teams in the conference (think Stanford and ASU) . The Utes gained most of their early success on the back of Travis Wilson who tragically saw his season end early with a head injury. With that being said the Utes are a good team but their record is not reflecting that, with Wilson out, Utah will have to look elsewhere for contributions.
The Utes will need an increased effort from their very good running back Lucky Radley to take some pressure off of their back up quarterback. Radley is a physical player but he also has some serious speed and can change direction quickly, he creates match up problems in space and can earn the hard yards between the tackles.
Dres Anderson will have to be the go-to guy when the Utes do decide to air it out. Anderson is an all star player and can get open in any situation. Sometimes he makes catches that leave you scratching your head, look out for this young man.
Defensively everyone knows about Trevor Riley. Good luck keeping him off your quarterback.
So what are the Cougar trends this week?
While the Utes are one of the most physical teams in the Pac-12, unlike Stanford they struggle slowing down teams that spread the ball out (See Arizona and Oregon). I think this is great for the Cougs as long as they protect the quarterback. I believe the best way to do that in this match up is to have success on screen plays early and hit a lot of quick passes underneath to slow down the pass rush. If Utah did their homework, they know the way to stop the WSU offense is to pressure the quarterback, the Cougs must counter.
Next the Cougars must build on their success running the ball. I could merge this with the first trend but if Wazzu sprinkles in the run like they did vs Arizona this will also help slow down the pass rush, more importantly if successful it will get the Cougs into better situations on 2nd and 3rd downs and take some pressure off the decision making of Connor Halliday.
Last trend. I know the team and Mike Leach say that every game is the same and every game they play with urgency but come on! This is college football and emotions and intensity run high. Think about the USC vs. Stanford game, the Trojans sure played that game with intensity and controlled emotion. That’s exactly how the Cougs need to play this weekend.
Especially for the Seniors taking the field at Martin Stadium for the last time who are playing for the opportunity to do something nobody in almost 3 generations of Cougars (in terms of graduating classes) have been able to do, play in a bowl game. I know this means a lot to the Senior class as most of them were part of one of the worst Cougar teams in history when they came into this program and ever since then they have shared one goal, to get to a bowl and Saturday they have the chance to get themselves eligible!
The only thing left to do is take it!
This is going to be an exciting game full of big plays and great story lines. Let’s do this Wazzu! GO COUGS!