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Pac-12 Championship Game Opponent Preview: Washington’s Offense

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NCAA Football: Washington at Utah Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Utes will look to avenge their loss to Washington in week three when the two top teams from the PAC-12 face off in the conference championship Friday night in Santa Clara, California. With the defenses headlining the first match-up, both offenses have improved throughout the season, making this rematch all the more interesting.

Highlighted by the senior quarterback/running back duo of Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin, the two have combined for 26 touchdowns and 3882 total yards in the regular season, accounting for most of Washington’s offensive production in 2018. During their first meeting, the Utes struggled to contain Gaskin, giving up 143 yards on 30 attempts, good for 4.8 yards per rush, and one touchdown, making it one of his most productive games of the season. Browning, on the other hand, struggled against Utah’s defense, completing 58.3% of his 24 total pass attempts, well below his 65.1% completion rating for the season. In all Browning mustered one passing TD, one rushing TD, and one interception, finishing with 155 passing yards and -14 rushing yards.

While the Huskies lack an elite receiver, juniors Aaron Fuller and Andre Baccellia have established themselves as favorite targets for Browning. Fuller leads the Huskies with 49 receptions for 754 yards and four TDs, while Baccellia has reeled in 35 catches for 410 yards but has failed to find the end zone at any point this season. Making up for Baccellia’s lack of points, Ty Jones, the sophomore wide receiver out of Provo, Utah leads all receivers with six touchdown receptions on just 28 catches, equating to points on 21% of his catches this season.

Much like the Utes, Washington’s offensive line will try to control the game from the trenches, something they did well in the first game, allowing only one sack on Browning, but a whopping seven tackles for loss. With a line loaded with proven talent, including junior left tackle Jarded Hilbers, whose availability is questionable after leaving the game last week early after an apparent ankle injury. Without Hilbers, the Huskies would rely heavily on redshirt junior Henry Roberts or veteran Trey Adams, who himself as battled injuries throughout his career in Washington.

If Utah’s defense can play similarly to their first game against Chris Petersen’s Huskies, a Rose Bowl berth is very possible. The issue will come down to whether or not the offense is able to produce against one of the toughest defenses the Utes faced in 2018.