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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 22, 8:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sun Devil Stadium (71,706) -- Tempe, Arizona. Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: Utah 2-0, Arizona State 2-0. Away Record: Utah 0-1, Arizona State 0-1. Neutral Record: Utah 0-0, Arizona State 0-0. Conference Record: Utah 0-0, Arizona State 0-0. Series Record: Arizona State leads 17-6.
GAME NOTES: In a weekend filled with Pac-12 season openers, the Utah Utes will travel to Sun Devil Stadium to begin conference play against the Arizona State Sun Devils.
This will be the first game out of the state of Utah for the Utes and in fact the first game against an opponent not from Utah since the season opener against Northern Colorado. In the previous couple of weeks Utah took a 27-20 loss against Utah State, followed by a thrilling 24-21 win over a then nationally ranked BYU squad. Utah is now 2-1 with conference play getting under way where the Utes went 4-5 last season.
Arizona State will be playing its third home game of the season in this matchup but will be returning from the first road trip. The Sun Devils lost to Missouri 24-20 in Columbia last weekend, spoiling a 2-0 start to the season. The Sun Devils had scored 108 total points in those two wins but were slowed up by the Tigers. Arizona State was also 4-5 in conference play last season.
These squads have met 23 previous times despite this being the only the second season in which they are both members of the Pac-12. Thus far, Arizona State has dominated in the all-time series with a 17-6 record against Utah, including a 43-22 win last season.
Utah defeated BYU despite having to make adjustments offensively with the retirement of former starting quarterback Jordan Wynn in the week leading up to the game. Jon Hays filled in admirably, completing 18-of-27 passes for 196 yards and a pair of scores. Hays didn't let the pressure get to him in the game even though he was constantly under pressure and fell victim to four sacks.
In a game in which Utah really could have used a strong running game the Utes' ground attack fell flat finishing with only 49 yards. Partially to blame was the loss of another important part of the offense in running back John White, who was a late scratch due to an ankle injury suffered against Utah State. White had rushed for 215 yards through the first two games which is still good enough for sixth in the Pac-12 this season.
With the offense missing several key players it was vital that the Utah defense perform well against BYU and the unit answered that call. Despite allowing 312 total yards in the game, the Utes limited the Cougars to a 6- for-17 effort on third down, collected four sacks and forced a pair of turnovers.
The defense also helped with the scoring with Moe Lee's 47-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown proving to be a key score late in the third quarter. That was especially important as the offense managed only three points itself in the second half, while the defense itself struggled in the fourth quarter, allowing BYU to score 14 unanswered points in the period.
Reggie Topps and Edwards-Morris each tied for a team-high with eight tackles, while Star Lotulelei tied a career-high with seven tackles. Joe Kruger was a forced up front, collecting 1.5 sacks.
After falling behind 24-7, Arizona State rallied but fell just short in its loss to Missouri. The Sun Devils, who were so impressive offensively in the first two games, struggled against the Tigers, collecting only 296 yards in the game, while 14 of their 20 points came in the fourth quarter. The Sun Devils really struggled on third down in the loss, converting only twice in 12 attempts.
Overall on the season Arizona State is averaging 453.3 yards and 42.7 points per game, with the bulk of those numbers influenced by the Sun Devils' play at home.
Todd Graham's offense has been reliant on sharing touches of the ball, but against Missouri that strategy was not as effective causing quarterback Taylor Kelly to have to carry the team's production. Kelly accounted for 237 yards by himself. He completed 14-of-23 passes for 178 yards and a score and also led the team with 59 rushing yards. The pressure of needing to make plays may have gotten to him though, as he was also guilty of a pair of interceptions.
Marion Grice (149 yards this season) struggled to get going all day but did punch in both touchdowns in the fourth quarter for the Sun Devils.
Arizona State's defensive numbers still look strong after the loss to Missouri. The Sun Devils are tied with Stanford in scoring defense, allowing 14.7 points per game and are third in total defense (295.7 ypg) through the first three games.
Against Missouri, Arizona State allowed only 318 total yards but on the Tigers' three scoring drives, the Sun Devils were unable to give the offense enough possessions by failing to make stops on third down. The Sun Devils allowed the Tigers to convert 10-of-22 attempts on third down, while spending 34:51 of the game on the field.
Brandon Magee had a strong return to the lineup with a game-high 12 tackles and an interception. Alden Darby (12) and Chris Young (11) also had double- digit tackle totals in the game.
Many considered Utah to be a dark horse in the Pac-12 this season and with an impressive win over BYU that might be true. However with such turmoil on the roster, especially with White questionable, it is unlikely the Utes can sustain that success, especially against a vastly improved team like Arizona State that has been so dominant at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arizona State 41, Utah 33
09/19 10:44:51 ET