(23) Arizona State (6-2) at Utah (4-4)|
Saturday, November 9, 4 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: After steam rolling their way to three straight wins the No. 23
Arizona State Sun Devils will attempt to earn a fourth when they visit the
upset-minded Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium for a Pac-12 duel.
There hasn't been much resistance facing Arizona State as it has risen into
the national rankings for the second time this year. The Sun Devils routed
Washington State in Pullman, 55-21, last Thursday after having posted huge
wins over Colorado (54-13) and Washington (53-24) in the two previous weeks.
Taylor Kelly accounted for seven touchdowns (five passing, two rushing) in the
win over the Cougars as the Sun Devils moved to 6-2 overall and became bowl
eligible for the third straight year.
"I'm not interested in that. We are interested in winning a championship,"
Arizona State head coach Todd Graham said. "We are proud of (being bowl
eligible) and it's not something we take for granted or (are) arrogant about.
I don't talk about that."
Right now Arizona State is 4-1 in league play and in the mix to represent the
Pac-12 South in the conference's title game.
Playing against a ranked team on their home field won't be a scary prospect
for the Utes. After all Utah took down a top-10 Stanford squad, 27-21, at
Rice-Eccles Stadium earlier in the season. However, since that victory the
Utes have dropped back-to-back games, both on the road, with the most recent
loss, a 19-3 setback against USC. Utah was absolutely dominated by the
Trojans' defense as it had just 201 yards of total offense in the losing
"One thing for certain is that the offensive line needs to play better. We
didn't protect very well, we didn't run-block very well, we didn't take any
stress off the quarterback with an effective run game," Utah head coach Kyle
Whittingham said, while stressing that the struggles of starter Travis Wilson
were not the lone reason for the loss. "It's not just the quarterback. There's
a lot of things involved."
Utah owns a 4-4 overall record, but at just 1-3 against the conference, has
slipped out of the Pac-12 North Division race.
This hasn't been a very competitive all-time series with Arizona State owning
18 wins in 24 meetings. That includes victories in the last nine matchups for
the Sun Devils, who posted a 37-7 triumph in Tempe last year.
Kelly hasn't always been able to produce scores and yards at such an
incredible rate as he did against Washington State, but that doesn't mean he
hasn't been one of the more exciting offensive threats in the conference.
Kelly has thrown for over 2,500 yards, with 23 touchdown passes, while
completing an impressive 62.9 percent of his passes. Kelly also has the speed
and skill to take off on his own as he has rushed for 315 yards and five more
scores this season. Four of those touchdowns and 150 of those yards have come
in the last two weeks.
Even though the Sun Devils absolutely crushed Washington State there was
something off about their performance. Marion Grice did not find the end zone.
Grice leads the country in total touchdowns with 18 (12 rushing, six
receiving), but for the first time this season he did not manage a score. In
all Grice has accounted for 647 yards rushing and another 333 through the air.
Grice and Kelly are not the only impressive offensive players for the Sun
Devils. Jaelen Strong (49 receptions, 720 yards, five TDs) has proven to be an
explosive receiver. D.J. Foster (43 receptions, 467 yards, three TDs) is a
versatile talent that can take handoffs as well as haul in passes.
The Sun Devils aren't just an impressive offensive squad though. Arizona State
is currently behind only USC among Pac-12 teams in total defense (343.4 ypg),
giving up an average of 26 points per game.
Even though Whittingham wouldn't blame his quarterbacks outright for the loss
to USC, there is no denying that Travis Wilson and Adam Schulz both failed to
produce in the loss. Wilson got the start but was pulled for Schulz after
being intercepted twice. Schulz finished with 79 yards on 7-of-17 passing and
was intercepted once. Wilson has started in all eight games, but has been
intercepted 14 times, which is the same number of touchdown passes he has.
Wilson does provide more of a threat on the ground than Schulz with 342 yards
and five rushing scores.
The Utes were dominated by the USC defense on the ground as well with leading
rushers Bubba Poole (495 yards, TD) and Kevin York (198 yards, two TDs) held
to just 40 yards combined on 13 carries. For two rushers that normally average
better than four yards per carry, the effort was clearly a big step back.
In terms of pass-catchers, Poole (28 receptions, 227 yards) has really made
his mark this year as he is second on the team in receptions. However, he has
been more of a safety net than a down the field threat. Dres Anderson (33
receptions, 642 yards, five TDs) and Sean Fitzgerald (24 receptions, 376
yards, four TDs) fit more into that mold.
Against USC, Utah did show some promise on the defensive side, holding the
Trojans to just 19 points and 260 yards of total offense. It was an impressive
showing for a team that is allowing 35.8 points and 393.4 yards per game on
average. Utah does create pressure, tied with Stanford for second in the
Pac-12 in sacks (27). Leading the way is Trevor Reilly (69 tackles, 11.0 TFL,
5.5 sacks), who paces the team in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks and fumble
If Arizona State hopes to avoid the same fate that Stanford suffered at Rice-
Eccles it needs to be able to utilize its wealth of offensive weapons. That
however, has not been an issue all year for the Sun Devils.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arizona State 38, Utah 28
11/06 10:47:54 ET