Utes bracing for Washington's dangerous offense
Utah football • Huskies' penchant for formation shifts will test Utah's defense.
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Utah has faced good quarterbacks and good running backs this season. What the Utes haven't faced are those elements together, which makes Saturday's game against the Washington Huskies a big challenge.

The talent of quarterback Keith Price, the production of running back Chris Polk and several good receivers and tight ends mean the Utes will have their hands full guessing as to which option and which look the Huskies will use against them.

Preparing for that variety is proving to be the Utes' biggest challenge, coach Kyle Whittingham said.

"They may have more formations than any team I have ever prepared for," Whittingham said. "We've got our work cut out for us."

Whittingham said Utah's defense must pay particular attention to the shifts the Huskies make.

"The biggest problem it presents when you're playing a team like that is to make sure you are aligned properly," Whittingham said. "They do new formations each week and do a nice job gaining advantages with their formations."

No judgement

With No. 6 Stanford, No. 9 Oregon and No. 25 Arizona State the only Pac-12 teams ranked in The Associated Press poll, some observers wonder if the league isn't as strong as it should be.

However, Whittingham said it is too early to pass judgement.

"I've always said you have to wait four or five weeks into the season before you get a real perspective," Whittingham said. "I've always been a proponent that the Top 25 polls shouldn't come out until halfway through the season because it's too hard to figure who is good and who isn't."

That being said, Whittingham was quick to defend the league's strength.

"It's my belief it's a very strong conference and competitive all the way through, it's all we can handle I can tell you that," Whittingham said. "I'm impressed by what I see on tape and our experience in the Coliseum."

New guy in town

Offensive lineman Po'u Palelei, who signed with the Utes in March, has taken care of his academic requirements and enrolled at Utah. Palelei was at practice Wednesday and is eligible to play this year, according to Whittingham.

However, it's unlikely he'll play since Whittingham said he is starting at square one. Palelei is 6-foot-5 and 380 pounds, according to his bio. However, he looked well above that weight and has a lot of conditioning work he must do. Palelei, who is from Las Vegas, played for Eastern Arizona in 2008, then redshirted in 2009. He attended Salt Lake Community College in 2010.

All gone

What few remaining standing-room-only tickets the Utes had available for Saturday's game against Washington have been sold, assuring the Utes a sellout. The Utes still have standing-room-only tickets remaining for their other home games.

Of note

Saturday's game is Utah's 91st homecoming game. The Utes are 8-5 in homecoming games since 1998 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. … Senior middle linebacker Chaz Walker is third in the Pac-12 in tackles per game with an 8.7 average.

lwodraska@sltrib.com

Twitter: @lyawodraska