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Utah Hosts Washington State Saturday

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The 3-0 Utes welcome the 1-3, but very dangerous Washington State Cougars for their Pac-12 opener in Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Utah linebacker Gionni Paul racked up the individual awards after a breakout performance against Michigan on Saturday.
Utah linebacker Gionni Paul racked up the individual awards after a breakout performance against Michigan on Saturday.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Utah (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12) hosts Washington State (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12) for Homecoming on Saturday, Sept. 27 at 6 p.m. MT in Rice-Eccles Stadium. Washington State is coming in off a 31-38 loss to Oregon in Pullman, but for the Utes Saturday's game will be their conference opener. Since joining the Pac-12, Utah is 0-3 in conference openers, losing to USC (2011), Arizona State (2012), and Oregon State (2013); however, Utah is heavily favored in this one (one line has the Utes -11 1/2).

After Saturday's 26-10 domination in the Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, the Utes are off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2010, when they won their first eight games. Travis Wilson was injured in the first half, but returned in the second to throw a touchdown and lead his team to victory in a downpour. As a result, Utah received votes in both the Associated Press (31 votes) and USA Today Coaches' (8 votes) polls. It is the first time Utah has received votes since 2011. Utah last appeared in the national rankings at No. 23 in the final 2010 Coaches' poll.

Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday has thrown for 1,901 yards already this season, tops in the FBS. He's also 37th in the country in quarterback rating at 153.1.

Historically, Utah leads the series with Washington State 7-6. In Salt Lake City, the series is tied 3-3, and Utah leads 4-2 in Pullman. According to the Utah ticket office, some bleacher seats and standing room tickets remain for Saturday's game (UtahUtes.com, 801-581-UTIX and in-person at Rice-Eccles Stadium).

The campus has a variety of events planned during a weeklong celebration of 2014 Homecoming, which is themed "Believe in U." (See alumni.utah.edu/Homecoming for more.)

The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks. Radio is ESPN700 AM and Sirius 139/XM 197.

Utes Earn National Honors:

Three Utes won national honors for their role in last week's 26-10 win over Michigan. Playing in his first game as a Ute, junior linebacker Gionni Paul was named the Athlon Sports National Defensive Player of the Week. Paul led Utah with 14 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery in his first game in two years. Paul redshirted last season after transferring from Miami (Fla.) and missed the first two games this fall while recovering from a foot injury ... Andy Phillips, who outscored Michigan on his own by making field goals of 50, 48, 38 and 35 yards and hitting both PAT tries, was named a Lou Groza Star of the Week ... Kaelin Clay's 66-yard punt return for a touchdown that gave Utah a 10-3 lead over the Wolverines earned him the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) Punt Returner of the Week.

Utah in the Rankings:

  • Utah is tied for second in the nation and leads the Pac-12 in both sacks per game (5.0) and tackles for loss per game (9.7).
  • Utah leads the nation in net punting (46.7 yards). Of Utah's 15 punts, just three have been returned (for a total of four yards).
  • Punter Tom Hackett ranks third nationally in punt average (48.3).
  • Utah ranks second in the country in kickoff return average (33.5).
  • Kaelin Clay is the only player in the country this season with two punt returns for touchdowns and three total returns (1 kickoff) for a touchdown. He ranks seventh in punt return average (23.8).
  • Utah ranks No. 7 in the nation in scoring offense (No. 2 in the Pac-12), averaging 47.0 points per game.
  • Utah ranks fourth in the Pac-12 and 10th in the nation in pass efficiency rating (172.81), as well as 12th nationally in passing yards per attempt (9.6).
  • Travis Wilson is ranked No. 3 nationally in passing efficiency (194.8).
  • Nate Orchard is tied for third in the nation in sacks per game (1.5), as well as fifth nationally in total sacks (5).

Extra Points:

Utah's coaches will participate in the American Football Coaches Association's national charity project for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy by wearing Coach to Cure MD patches on the sidelines in Saturday's game.

Utah is winning the turnover battle 5-2 after three games. Utah's three interceptions against Michigan matched its total from last season and were its most in a game since 2012 (3 vs. Colorado).

With 1,974 career receiving yards, Dres Anderson needs just 26 more yards to become the fifth receiver in school history to reach 2,000 yards. One would think he'll surpass that mark against a defense challenged Washington State.