Utah (3-3) at California (3-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 22nd, 7:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: AT&T Park (41,915) -- San Francisco, California. Television: KJZZ, CSN-BAY. Home Record: Utah 1-2, Cal 1-1. Away Record: Utah 2-1, Cal 1-2. Neutral Record: Utah 0-0, Cal 1-0. Conference Record: Utah 0-3, Cal 0-3. Series Record: California leads, 4-3.
GAME NOTES: Still waiting for their first official Pac-12 Conference victory, the Utah Utes make their way to AT&T Park in San Francisco this weekend to challenge the California Golden Bears.
Utah, which made the jump from the Mountain West Conference to become a member of the new Pac-12, managed to snap a two-game slide last Saturday by slipping by the Pittsburgh Panthers on the road in a 26-14 decision. The win was just the third in six tries this season for the Utes, who are already winless in three charges in their new conference.
As for the Golden Bears, they began the new season with three consecutive wins over the likes of Fresno State, Colorado and Presbyterian but since then the program is dropped three in a row, all in conference play. Last week, Cal was held to a season-low nine points in a 21-point loss to USC in San Francisco. At this point in the campaign, Cal is all alone in last place in the North division of the conference standings, while Utah is one of three teams in the South division still awaiting its first league win.
In terms of the all-time series between these two programs, California is ahead by a count of 4-3, yet the Utes have taken three of the last four meetings including back-to-back contests. The most recent matchup came in the 2009 Poinsettia Bowl where the Utes bounced back from a 14-0 deficit to capture a 37-27 victory.
Without Jordan Wynn at quarterback, out of action due to an injury, the Utes figured to have their hands full against Pittsburgh on the road last Saturday, but John White saved the day for visitors as he ran for a team-high 171 yards on 36 carries. Quarterback John Hays connected on 14-of-23 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown although we did have to scramble quite a bit while being sacked seven times. Kicker Coleman Petersen played a major role for the Utes as he converted all four of his field-goal attempts on the afternoon. Despite his impressive showing against the Panthers, Petersen still has just eight made field goals on the season overall. Hays, now in charge of the offense for the foreseeable future, will have to rely heavily on a series of running backs lining up behind him in order for the Utes to have any success against the rest of the conference will forward. the emergence of White as a productive running back should take some of the pressure off of Hays, but the quarterback will need to rely on his weapons down the field as well. White has already gained 671 yards on the ground the bulk of the team's 776 yards thus far, and has scored all six of the team's rushing touchdowns.
The Utah defense was outstanding against the Panthers, limiting the home team to a mere 70 yards rushing on 31 attempts and just 50 yards through the air. Outside of yielding a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter, the Utes were nearly perfect in a tough environment. Derrick Shelby registered seven total tackles, including one and a half sacks and 2 1/2 stops for loss, not to mention coming up with an interception which he returned 21 yards four touchdown in the final minutes to give the visitors of reading room. Because of the team's efforts in Pittsburgh, the Utes now trying to third in the conference and tied for 27th nationally with 2.5 sacks per contest. For the third straight game Utah was credited with at least eight tackles for loss, if the program is still ranked 55th in the country with an average of six such stops per game. Thanks to the run defense's efforts last Saturday, the Utes are now ranked second in the league and 13th in the country with just 94.5 ypg allowed on the ground.
Playing against the rest of the Pac-12 is certainly much different than facing a team like the Blue Hose of Presbyterian, an opponent against which the Bears dropped 63 points on last month. Versus the Trojans last week, the Cal offense sputtered with just a single touchdown, courtesy of a three-yard run by Zach Maynard, but even so the team missed the PAT which, with seconds left in the third quarter, wouldn't have made a difference in the final outcome. Maynard, who was sacked three times and had three passes picked off, converted 25-of-43 passes for 294 yards in the losing cause, the team's rushing attack accounting for a mere 35 yards on 26 attempts. If not for the squad's 285 yards and five touchdowns on the ground against Presbyterian last month, the Bears wouldn't be anywhere close to the 137.2 ypg they are averaging on the ground to this point, a number that has them ranked 71st in the country this week. The team has been leaning heavily on Maynard who has the passing attack averaging just under 300 ypg, but in addition to his 11 TD strikes he also has six picks, so the end results are not always what Cal is expecting.
California held the Trojans to just 313 yards of total offense last week, but that just goes to show how one stat can be misleading when evaluating a team's overall performance. Mychal Kendricks finished the night with a team-high 10 tackles and had one of their five stops behind the line of scrimmage, but what the Bears failed to register was even a single sack against USC and that allowed the Trojans to carry on their offense as usual for the most part. The stats show that California has been rather adept at getting up the field and taking down opposing quarterbacks, to the tune of 2.5 sacks per game to rank third in the conference and 27th in the nation, but much of that has to do with the matchups against Fresno State and Presbyterian in the first couple of weeks when Cal recorded six and five sacks, respectively. The team also opened the season strong with 12 TFL versus the Bulldogs, adding another nine against Presbyterian, which is why the squad is posting 7.2 TFL per game overall.
Having to travel all the way to the Keystone State last week, the Utes were certainly out of their element, but they still put together a solid game plan and put their defense first, which is what the team should be doing this week as well.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah 24, California 17
10/19 10:35:28 ET