Preview: Utah vs. Washington

Without decorated quarterbacks Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Luke Falk, the Pac-12 took on a more defensive tone in 2018. And that’s certainly reflects in Friday night’s conference championship game which pits No. 17 Utah against No. 11 Washington in Santa Clara, Calif.

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Both teams boast top-20 FBS total and scoring defenses with the Huskies allowing 311.3 yards and 16.5 points and the Utes permitting 315.8 yards and 19.3 points per game. “You (had) better get your mind right,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said Sunday in his weekly news conference. “Our guys know it’s going to be (a defensive game). They (the Utes) don’t give you anything. Lots of man coverage, (they) pack the box and are extremely active and aggressive.” Washington will be playing in its second Pac-12 title game in three years while Utah is making its first appearance since joining the conference in 2011. “It’s our first trip to the championship, and I’m proud of our guys for continuing to persevere and fight this season,” Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said at his Monday media gathering. “We overcame so many obstacles and so much adversity. They are a great group to be around, and this has been one of the most enjoyable years of coaching for me.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Washington -5

ABOUT UTAH (9-3): The adversity Whittingham referenced centers mainly on the early-November injury losses of starting quarterback Tyler Huntley and tailback Zack Moss, who had accounted for 84 percent of the Utes’ total offense in the first nine games. Freshman Jason Shelley has stepped in at quarterback, and while he’s averaged only 208 passing yards over the last three contests, he’s also rushed for 112 yards and accounted for six touchdowns with no turnovers. Defensively, safety-turned-linebacker Chase Hansen has notched a conference-most 22 tackles for loss to pace a unit which has been the Pac-12’s stingiest against the run with 100.3 yards allowed (fifth nationally).

ABOUT WASHINGTON (9-3): Unlike Utah, the Huskies have the advantage of health and experience in the backfield with the senior duo of Jake Browning and tailback Myles Gaskin. Browning, despite averaging a career-low 224.3 aerial yards this season, is the school’s career passing yards leader and Pac-12’s all-time winningest quarterback, while Gaskin is averaging 107.6 yards on the ground and is the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards and touchdowns. Senior linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven is tied for the lead nationally with 155 tackles and paces a defense which ranks second in the conference against the run (121.8 yards allowed) and pass (189.4 yards).

EXTRA POINTS

1. With a 21-7 road win at Utah on Sept. 15, Washington has won five of the six meetings since Utah entered the Pac-12.

2. In the September contest, Gaskin rushed for 143 yards and a TD on 30 carries while the Huskies’ defense forced three turnovers and had a trio of fourth-down stops.

3. The Utes figure to have the edge in the kicking game, ranking in the top 14 nationally in field goals made (23) and net-putting average (40.6).

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Christian McCaffrey did it all! Run, pass and catch, delivering a record setting performance that will place him high on the Heisman Trophy contender list as well as clinching a third Rose Bowl berth in four years. As the most renowned fantasy college football DFS site, Fanpicks.com is proud to provide the highlights of this exciting PAC-12 Championship game.

McCaffrey led the number 7th ranked Stanford to the PAC-12 Championship by rushing 207 yards and a score, throwing a touchdown pass and catching another as they trounced over USC for 42-22 win. Coach David Shaw praised McCaffrey by saying, “To my left here is the best player in the nation, there’s nobody in the nation doing what he’s been doing. It’s not even a debate.”

The Trojans (8-5; No. 20 CFP, No. 24 AP) Cody Kessler, threw for 187 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score. USC coach Helton said of the loss “Got some hurt kids in that locker room, they’ve given tremendous effort to get to this point and obviously are extremely saddened by not finishing the job.”

Stanford’s win became apparent as they took control of the game with a pair of touchdowns in a span of just over 3 minutes late in the third quarter. After blowing an early 13-point lead, the Cardinal faced a third-down in their own territory. Hogan then found McCaffrey open in the middle of the field and he ran with for a 67-yard reception down to the USC 7. Hogan ran it in on the next play to put Stanford back on top.

Playing with an injured ankle, Blake Martinez, sacked Kessler and caused a fumble on the very next possession which Thomas was able to recover and ran in for the score… making it 27-16 at that point. “The center came up on me and tried to wall me off and I just went right around him,” Martinez said. “I saw the quarterback still had the ball and I was like, ‘All right, time to make a play.’ When I saw the ball on the ground, I was like, ‘Pick it up, pick it up.’ I saw Solly pick it up and I was like, ‘Yes!’ He scored and it was amazing.”

McCaffrey, who was left completely open in the middle of the field, then caught a 27 yard pass for the touchdown. McCaffrey’s feats led him to break Sander’s 1988 record of 3,250 yards in single season, albeit it took McCaffrey two additional games to achieve it.

The Trojans were completely outplayed for the first 25 minutes into the game, yet the bounced back with three straight scoring drives. Kessler was impressive in driving a 15 play sequence the set up to a 40 yard field goal by Alex Wood cutting Stanford’s lead to 13-3. Kessler rose to the occasion once again in the opening minutes of the third quarter by throwing a 1 yard touchdown pass to Jahleel Pinner further cutting Stanford’s lead to 13-9. The on their very next possession, Ronald Jones II then scored on 27 yard rushing play giving the Trojans the lead at 16-13.

The Cardinal dominated the game early but led only 13-0 due in part to problems converting in the red zone. Stanford held a 210-9 advantage in yards gained but was unable to break the game open. A holding penalty on Rollins Stallworth negated a TD on the first drive, forcing Stanford to settle for a field goal. Stanford later was stopped at the 1-yard line, leading to another short field goal by Conrad Ukropina and Hogan got sacked on a fourth down from the 1.

The only touchdown in the first half came on McCaffrey’s trick play. Hogan pitched to Barry Sanders Jr., who then flipped it to McCaffrey, who had lined up as a receiver. McCaffrey then threw to a wide-open Hogan for his second TD pass of the season.

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