Way back in mid-September, the No. 11 Washington Huskies (9-3, 7-2 Pac-12) beat the No. 17 Utah Utes (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) 21-7 in Rice-Eccles Stadium. Since that game, the Utes have turned their season around and managed to win the Pac-12 South for the first time in school history and will face the Huskies tomorrow for the Pac-12 Championship. In the nine subsequent games since Utah and Washington played, they have six common opponents. While we all know the transitive property does not work in college football, it is interesting to see how the two teams fared against the same competition. Each common opponent, I will give an advantage to either Utah or Washington and grade it low, medium, or large for the advantage.
Washington State Cougars - Advantage Washington: Medium
UW beat the rival Cougars in Pullman to claim the Pac-12 North title, winning 28-15. Utah lost at the Cougars 28-24 back in September. UW had a 17-point better margin against the Cougars compared to Utah, but I am dinging the Huskies a little bit here for two reasons: they have dominated the Cougars under Chris Petersen, and Utah was still in the process of getting things figured out. There were also a few, let’s say “questionable” calls that swung the game in WSU’s favor.
Stanford Cardinal - Advantage Utah: Large
UW beat Stanford at home 27-23, nearly blowing a 21-0 halftime lead. Utah dominated Stanford 40-21 on the road, the game that really turned around the season for the Utes, the first of four-straight 40+-point games. Utah gets a big advantage here for a big road win compared to a close home win.
UCLA Bruins - Advantage Utah: Large
Both teams played at UCLA, but Utah won 41-10, UW only won 31-24. Utah beat UCLA by 24 more points, and it was a Friday night road game for the Utes, which we all know how tough that is in the Pac-12. This was the final 40+-point game of the season for the Utes. Utah managed to score more points than UW against UCLA and give up fewer points.
Arizona State Sun Devils - Advantage Washington: Medium
This one might be a little confusing. UW beat ASU, while Utah lost by 18 (UW won 27-20, while Utah lost 38-20). But, let’s remember how much better ASU plays at home compared to on the road. Arizona State won just one game outside the state of Arizona this year (at the USC Trojans). ASU struggles playing in the Pacific Northwest especially. Utah also lost Tyler Huntley in the game against the Sun Devils, which really threw Utah off. If UW played at ASU and Utah hosted ASU, the results very well might have been flipped (UW has not won at ASU since 2001). Even though the margin is 25 points, I think the home versus road matters heavily in this one.
Oregon Ducks - Advantage Utah: Small
This one is nearly a push, but Utah gets the edge because they won (32-25), while UW lost (30-27 in overtime). But, like Arizona State, Oregon is a team that plays much better at home. They beat UW at home while lost to Utah on the road. Oregon is also a rival of UW, which changes the dynamics of the game.
Colorado Buffaloes - Advantage Utah: Large
UW beat Colorado 27-13 at home while Utah beat Colorado 30-7 on the road. Laviska Shenault, Colorado’s best player missed the game against UW but played against Utah. The Utes scored more points and gave up fewer on the road than UW did at home.
BYU Cougars - Advantage Washington: Small
Both teams faced BYU at home. UW won 35-7, Utah won 35-27. But, BYU is Utah’s main rival and always plays their hardest in that game. It also is significantly closer to Rice-Eccles Stadium for BYU than Husky Stadium. Utah clearly came out unmotivated in the first half, but they outscored BYU 35-7 in the second half. It took Utah just one half to score the same amount of points on BYU that it took the Huskies the full game to score (now granted UW didn’t play their starters the whole game and BYU’s lone score came at the very end against UW’s backups). UW played a better four quarters, but Utah’s second half was quite impressive in a heated rivalry game.
Record: Advantage Washington
Margin of Victory: Advantage Washington
Utah: 222-156 (+66 points)
Washington: 202-132 (+70 points)
The two teams have played similarly against their six common opponents since squaring off in September. Utah managed to outscore Washington by 20 points against common opponents, but Utah gave up 24 more points. UW played slightly better against common opponents compared to Utah. But, looking at this, it really illustrates how similar these two teams are. They play each other tough with similar brands of physical football. This should be another close, hard fought game between the two schools tomorrow.