First look: UCLA at No. 18 Utah

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham waves to fans after defeating UCLA, 30-28, at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 4, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham waves to fans after defeating UCLA, 30-28, at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 4, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA Bruins (7-3, 4-3) at No. 18 Utah (8-2, 5-2)
Saturday, Nov. 21, 12:30 p.m., Rice-Eccles Stadium
TV: FOX (Joe Davis, Brady Quinn, Kris Budden)
Radio: AM 570 (Bill Roth, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Scouting report: Now in his 11th year at Utah, head coach Kyle Whittingham needs just one more win to secure his best conference record since his program joined the Pac-12. … The Utes have only allowed eight rushing touchdowns this season. No one in the Pac-12 has given up fewer than 14. Their pass defense hasn’t been as stingy, allowing 7.0 yards per attempt (sixth) and 17 touchdowns. However, they do lead the league with 16 interceptions. … Utah ranks eighth in the Pac-12 in yards per pass attempt (7.2) and — somewhat surprisingly — ninth in yards per carry. But no other tailback in the country is within even 20 carries of Devontae Booker’s FBS-high workload. … The special teams unit isn’t as exceptional as it was last season, but reigning Ray Guy Award winner Tom Hackett is still around. He is third nationally at 47.1 yards per punt. … Utah hasn’t lost a home game yet this season, and set the top-two attendance records in Rice-Eccles Stadium history against Michigan (47,825) and Cal (47,798).

Series history: UCLA has a 10-3 all-time record against Utah, but the two teams have split their four meetings as Pac-12 opponents. The Bruins won by a touchdown in 2012 and 2013, while the Utes survived by two points last year.

Key players:

QB Travis Wilson, Sr., 6-7, 233 — 163/246, 1,806 yards, 12 TD, 9 INT
— He threw seven touchdowns to three interceptions in his first five appearances, but has fallen to a five-to-six ratio in his last four games. Also ranks third among Pac-12 quarterbacks with 368 rushing yards.

RB Devontae Booker, RSr., 5-11, 212 — 268 carries, 1,261 yards, 11 TD, 37 catches, 318 yards
Pro Football Focus grades Booker out as the fourth-best running back in college football, just behind Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and just ahead of UCLA’s Paul Perkins.

WR Britain Covey, Fr., 5-8, 166 — 41 catches, 518 yards, 4 TD, 246 punt return yards, 1 TD
– The diminutive freshman is second on the team with 91.2 all-purpose yards per game.

LB Gionni Paul, RSr., 5-10, 225 — 86 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 3 INT
— Capable of making plays all over the field, Paul leads the team in tackles for loss and ranks second in interceptions.

DE Kylie Fitts, Jr., 6-4, 268 — 29 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 6 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles
– The former Bruin has eight starts this season, and could be in line for an eighth if Hunter Dimick can’t go.

Line: UCLA opened as a 2-point favorite, but the line now favors Utah by the same spread.

Opponent in GIF form:


Fun fact: Utah is the oldest public university west of the Mississippi. It was founded in 1850 as University of Deseret, after the name of the provisional state that was never recognized by the U.S. government. Six months later, the Utah territory was created.