Devils Den Blog

Preview: Utah Utes 4-4 (1-3 Pac-12)

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Key Wins: Stanford 7-1 (5-1 Pac-12), Utah State 5-4 (4-1 MWC), BYU 6-2

Key Losses: Oregon State 6-3 (4-2 Pac-12), Arizona 6-2 (3-2 Pac-12), UCLA 6-2 (3-2 Pac-12), USC 6-3 (3-2 Pac-12)

NFL Draft Prospects: DE Trevor Reilly, CB Keith McGill, OLB Brian Belcher, RB Kelvin York, C Vyncent Jones, DT Tenny Palepoi, WR Anthony Denham, WR Sean Fitzgerald

Sunday night, the Arizona State Sun Devils entered the BCS poll, at No. 22, for the first time under head coach Todd Graham thanks to a 55-21 drubbing of the Washington State Cougars Halloween night.

The Sun Devils wasted little time in jumping on the Cougars. By the end of the first quarter, ASU held a 21-0 lead over Washington State, due to two touchdown runs from Taylor Kelly and an 11 yard touchdown pass from Kelly to wide receiver Jaelen Strong. That was only the beginning of a huge night for Kelly, as he went on to be responsible for all seven of ASU’s touchdowns. By halftime, Kelly had thrown three more touchdown passes, a seven-yard toss to running back D.J. Foster, then a 51-yard bomb to oft-maligned wide receiver Richard Smith, who made the catch despite being interfered with, and which ended up being featured on SportsCenter‘s Top 10, and finally an eight-yard pass to tight end Chris Coyle. Washington State did add two scores in the second quarter, but with the score 42-14, the game was essentially over. After the half, the Washington State defense held the Sun Devils to only one touchdown in the third quarter, a 23-yard pass from Kelly to Foster, and only gave the Sun Devils two Zane Gonzalez field goals in the fourth. Kelly ended up completing 22 of his 31 passes for 275 yards and five touchdowns. The Sun Devil defense continued their recent trend of dominance, holding the Cougars to two rushing yards and sacking quarterback Connor Halliday three times.

The Sun Devils will travel north once again this week, going to Salt Lake City to play the Utah Utes at hostile Rice-Eccles Stadium at 2 p.m. MST on Saturday on the Pac-12 Networks.

I said last week that Washington State was having an up and down season this year, which they are, but no team fits that description better than the Utes, so I’m going to repeat myself.  The Utes opened their season by welcoming in-state rival Utah State to Rice-Eccles for the “Battle of the Brothers.” In a toughly contested game, Ute QB Travis Wilson out dueled Aggie QB Chuckie Keeton, 30-26, as both threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns.

The next week, the Utes faced off against the state of Utah’s FCS school, Weber State, and demolished the Wildcats 70-7. Wilson threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns, and the Ute run game rushed for 338 yards on the Wildcat defense.

Homecoming came the next week for Utah, and with it came their first Pac-12 Conference game of the season as the Oregon State Beavers made the trek to Salt Lake City. In a very exciting game, Wilson passed for 279 yards and two scores, but was outclassed by OSU’s Sean Mannion, who threw for 443 yards and five touchdowns in a game that the Beavers won 51-48 in double OT. Wilson also threw three interceptions against OSU. That has become a trend for the Utah QB.

The Holy War came the next week for Utah, as they traveled to Provo, Utah to take on their most hated rival, BYU. The hostile territory at LaVell Edwards Stadium did not derail the Utes, who won the last game the two schools will play until 2016, 20-13. Wilson did not let the three interceptions from the previous week bother him. He threw for 273 yards, two TDs, and no interceptions. The INT bug came back during the Utes’ next game, however.

Utah had a bye week before Pac-12 South division rival UCLA came up to Rice-Eccles for the teams’ annual matchup. In a game that truly shows how hard it is to play in Salt Lake City, the undefeated and No.12 Bruins defeated the Utes, 34-27. It can be said that Utah would have defeated the Bruins if Wilson had not thrown six interceptions to UCLA’s defense. Yes, that is right. Six interceptions, and UCLA still only won by seven. But the Utes had to shake the tough loss off quickly, as an extremely tough test was coming.

The next week, undefeated and No. 5 Stanford traveled to Salt Lake City to play the Utes. The Utes found a way to put that UCLA loss far behind them, and Wilson found a way to forget about those six picks he threw as the Utes became the first team in 2013 to defeat the Cardinal, winning by a final score of 27-21. Wilson threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns and the Utes ran for 181 yards in their victory.

Utah then took their first Pac-12 road trip of the season, traveling south to Tucson to play the Arizona Wildcats. Utah’s defense did not look anything close to the unit that defeated Stanford, as the Wildcats ran for 300 yards against the Utes, with 236 of those coming from All-American running back Ka’Deem Carey. U of A rode Carey’s performance, along with three touchdowns from QB B.J. Denker, to a 35-24 victory. Wilson threw only nine passes, with two interceptions, no less, before being replaced by backup Adam Schulz due to a sprained finger on his throwing hand.

The Utes took another trip the next week, this time to Los Angeles to play the Ed Orgeron-led USC Trojans. Wilson again played only sparingly against USC because of that sprained finger, throwing only 14 passes, and another two interceptions before Schulz came in in relief. The Trojan defense held the Utes to 201 total yards, and USC won, 19-3.

Utah had a bye week last week and now will return home to face the No. 22 Arizona State Sun Devils, who come in as one of the hottest and highest scoring teams in the country.

Arizona State has been a completely different team since the loss to Notre Dame in Arlington, Texas on Oct. 5. Since then, the Sun Devils have a plus-104 point differential and have scored 50-plus points in the three games since the loss to the Irish. The defense has also been incredible, only giving up 260.67 yards per game and only 32 rushing yards per game in those three games. The Sun Devils also control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South as they are the only team in the South with one Pac-12 loss. They rest a game above UCLA, Arizona and USC.

When it comes to Saturday’s game, the Sun Devils will face an extremely tough task. Go into Rice-Eccles Stadium and win. Both of the teams in this matchup love playing at home, and don’t really enjoy playing on the road. Arizona State may have turned a corner last week, with the huge win against Washington State in Pullman, Wash., but that was a much weaker team than Utah. This will be an extremely competitive game, with many factors that ASU and Utah will have to deal with. The first being, will Travis Wilson be healthy? The Utes are just not as good of a team with Adam Schulz at quarterback, and that really showed against Arizona and USC. Wilson has said that his hand feels fine, but that question will not be answered until the game starts. Expect a quick hook if Wilson plays at all like he did against the Wildcats and Trojans. That will be Utah’s main issue. ASU will have to contend with not only weather, but the loud crowd that packs the stands at Rice-Eccles. Luckily for the Sun Devils, the forecast for Saturday calls for a high of 64 degrees, according to weather.com, a warm day for November in northern Utah. ASU also practiced in the Verde-Dickey bubble with crowd noise that, according to House of Sparky’s Kerry Crowley, could be heard 30 yards away.

In a close game, I see Travis Wilson committing one or two too many interceptions, and ASU getting the win in Salt Lake City.

Prediction: ASU 37, Utah 27

 

About Jeff Vinton

Jeff Vinton is a sophomore journalism and mass communication major at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He was born and raised in Fort Collins, CO and graduated in 2012 from Fort Collins High School.

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