Gary Doran

Advanced Stats Report: Utah Utes


The Utah Utes will be the final home game for the Sun Devils in 2016. The Devils hold the season series record with Utah at 20-7. ASU also holds a healthy win-loss record against the Utes in Sun Devil Stadium at 14-3. The last time Utah won a game in Sun Devil Stadium was a 31-28 affair in 1976. Below are the win-loss records for ASU by era:

Before the WAC……………………………….…..……(0-1)
Both Teams in the WAC……………………..………(10-5)
ASU in the PAC-10………………………………..…..(6-0)
Both Teams in the PAC-12…………………..……..(4-1)

Here are stats from the 2015 season: (2015 Record, Overall: 10-3 – Conference: 6-3)

Offense– Each month of the regular season last year, the Utah ground game scored fewer rushing touchdowns than  the month before
– Every year since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, Utah has scored more rushing touchdowns than the previous  year (2011-16, 2012-17, 2013-19, 2014-21, 2015-24)
– In 2012, Utah ranked tenth in the conference in rushing yardage, in 2013 they were eighth, in 2014 they  were fifth and last year they finished fourth
– In 2014 and 2015, Utah ran the ball for over 2,000 yards; the last time they did back-to-back seasons over  2,000 yards was 2008 and 2009, before joining the Pac-12
– Even though Utah ranked tenth in the conference in 2015 in average yards per carry, it was their second  highest average in a season for Utah since joining the Pac-12
– Last year, the Utah ground game had a higher yards per carry in road games as compared to games at  home (4.28 vs 4.07)
– In the first quarter of all their games last season, Utah gained the most yards, had the highest yards per  carry and scored the most touchdowns by quarter, however, by the fourth quarter those same categories  were all at their lowest
– Last season, ASU was one of only two teams that kept the Utah offense from gaining 100 yards on the  ground in their game; the other was USC
– Last year, Utah was second in the conference in average yards per carry on third down and short yardage,  but fifth in the percentage of those runs that gained a first down
– Only two teams last year ran the ball in their opponents’ red zone less than Utah, yet they had the third  best average yards per carry there
– Last year, Utah ran the ball 16 times on fourth down and gained a first down thirteen of those runs; they  also had the highest yards per carry in the conference on fourth down
– In the first nine games of the season last year, Utah scored 19 touchdowns on the ground, while in the last  three games in the regular season, they only scored two
– In four of the five years Utah has been in the Pac 12, they have finished either last or next to last in the  average passing yards per game and passes that gain a first down
– Last year Utah threw the fewest touchdown passes in a season since joining the Pac 12 Conference in  2011, at only 15
– In the first quarter of their games last year, Utah averaged completing over 75-percent of their passes, but  the completion percentage dropped almost 20-percent in the second quarter. Also seven of the eleven  interceptions thrown last year happened in the second quarter
– In each of the last two seasons, Utah has thrown the fewest passes from within their opponents’ red  zones (2015-20 and 2014-35)
– In the past two seasons, Utah has not thrown an interception in the first quarter, but eleven in the second  quarter
– In five of their 13 games last year, Utah did not throw a touchdown pass
– In the first nine games last year, Utah completed 67.6-percent of its passes, while in the last three games  the completion percentage dropped to 47.1-percent
– Last year when Utah was behind, they completed 66-percent of their pass attempts, when they were tied,  they completed 75-percent of their pass attempts, and when they were ahead, they only completed 58- percent of their pass attempts
– In four of the five seasons since joining the Pac 12, Utah has thrown more touchdown passes in the first  half than in the second half
– Last year was the second highest number of touchdown passes thrown in conference play for the Utes  since joining the Pac 12
– Last year, Utah was fifth in the conference in converting third downs into first downs at 41-percent, which  was the highest percentage they achieved since joining the Pac 12 Conference
– Last year, Utah was ninth in the conference in converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns
– Last year, Utah tied for eighth in the conference in the number of turnovers they lost during the season  with 21, which is just about their average for the previous four seasons at 20.5

Defense– Each month of the season last year, the Ute defense gave up fewer rushing touchdowns than in the  previous month
– In the past three seasons, Utah has been either first or second in the conference in giving up the fewest  rushing touchdowns
– In four of the five years Utah has been in the conference, they have been ranked either first, second or  third in total rushing yards allowed
– Last year, the Utah defense faced the fewest running plays, gave up the fewest total rushing yards, had the  lowest yards per carry average, surrendered the fewest carries that gained a first down and allowed the  fewest rushing touchdowns in the conference
– Last season, the Utah defense gave up the second fewest carries that gained ten yards or more
– On third down and short yardage last year, the Utah defense had the lowest percentage in the conference  of running plays gaining a first down (44.8%)
– Last year, the Utah defense only gave up two rushing touchdowns when they were behind in the game
– Last year, Utah was the only team in the conference not to allow a running play to gain more than 50  yards
– The first two years in the conference the Utah defense was ranked fourth and third in the conference in  total passing yards allowed, while in two of the last three years they have been ranked eighth
– Since joining the conference in 2011, the Utah defense has not allowed an average completion rate over  60-percent in a season
– In each month of the season last year, the Utah defense allowed a smaller and smaller percentage of  opponent passes to be completed
– In the past three seasons, Utah has ranked no higher than sixth in the conference in the number of  touchdown passes they have given up
– Last season, Utah was eighth in the conference in the number of red zone touchdown passes they  surrendered, but first in the number of red zone interceptions
– In the first half of their games last year, Utah allowed 62 passes to be completed for a first down, 32  completions to gain more than 15 yards and grabbed 13 interceptions, while in the second half, they  allowed 86 pass completions to gain a first down, 45 receptions to get 15 yards or more and got nine  interceptions
– In the five years Utah has been in the Pac 12 conference, they have intercepted a pass once every 92.0  pass attempts when they are trailing in the game, when they are not behind, they intercept a pass once  every 29.3 pass attempts
– In the first two games against Utah after they joined the Pac 12 conference, ASU threw six touchdown  passes and no interceptions, while in the last two games, they have thrown only one touchdown pass and  three interceptions
– Since joining the Pac 12 conference, Utah has ranked in the top half of the conference each season in  limiting opponents in converting third downs into first downs
– In each of the last two seasons, Utah has faced the second fewest plays in the conference from within their  own red zone
– In the three season prior to last year, Utah average just under 20 takeaways a season while last year they  grabbed 34 takeaways which was the most since joining the conference
– Since joining the conference, Utah has had a positive turnover margin in four of the five seasons

Although the Utah run game isn’t elite in the conference, it is potent, and seems to be getting better annually relative to its conference peers. Overall the Utes’ run game seems to do well in typical running situations. They did indeed do better on the road than at home when it came to the average yards per carry (not a good sign for a game in Tempe in 2016). They also seemed to fade a bit last year with their effectiveness during their games, and during the season (wonder if this will help ASU with a late season game in 2016).

Utah will be breaking in a new quarterback in 2016, following the tenure of a three-year starter in Travis Wilson who threw 47 touchdown passes and 31 interceptions in 34 games. Last year was also the best year so far for Utah in terms of pass completion percentage even though it still ranked fifth in the conference. Additionally, the yards per pass attempt for Utah has always ranked them in the lower portion of the conference in that category. As you can see to this point, their passing game has not been the feature of the Utah offense.

Utah’s strength is in its defense, specifically its run defense. That has been a hallmark of the Utah defense since joining the conference. It seemed to become even more stout in obvious run-oriented situations. The trends of the Utah run defense should probably continue into 2016. Wonder how that will play with ASU’s running game?

Although the Utah pass defense keeps the percentage of completions fairly well in check compared to its conference peers, they do seem to give up their fair share of touchdown passes being somewhat in the middle of the conference in that category over the past three years. The one big difference in the Utah pass defense in 2015, compared to their previous years is the number of interceptions they snagged last year; a whopping 22, seven more than then next closest conference defense.

The interceptions helped Utah lead the conference in the all-important turnover margin last year. A +15 turnover margin can sure help out the won-loss record in a season. It will be interesting to see if the defense is as opportunistic in 2016 as it was in 2015, if so, good things will be in store for the Utes.

Source: and

About Gary Doran

Gary Doran

Gary graduated from ASU many years ago. After careers working in banking, finance and the financial administration of academic research funding, he is now interested in utilizing his passion for numbers towards two things he thoroughly loves; Arizona State University and college football. He is looking forward to finding the “stories” buried within the numbers on a football stat sheet. He has gone to ASU football games all the way back to the days of Frank Kush and the WAC. He has been married to an amazing ASU graduate for almost forty years, and they currently live in Ventura, CA. Although this may disqualify him from talking football, he and his wife enjoy the practice of yoga and dancing the Argentine Tango. Ole!

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