Four Downs: Utah

After being pummeled in the trenches by Stanford, California's offensive line must respond by limiting Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.

Every week Cal Sports Digest offers its four keys to a California win:

-Transfer Those First-Quarter Woes
Congratulations Bears, you finally get to face an opponent as inept as you are in the first quarter.

While the Golden Bears' struggles to start fast this season have been well documented, the Utes know the same feeling, having been outscored 62-28 in The Opening 15 minutes. Two of those touchdowns came on the first four plays against USC off a defensive score and another takeaway to set up a short field, otherwise the tally would be even more lopsided.

If Cal can somehow establish an early advantage, it would take the crowd out of the game and put the Utah offense in an uncomfortable position. Jeff Tedford must come out with the best scripted series of the year to ensure quarterback Zach Maynard and the offensive line can create rhythm, while the defense get some early stops to create field position, or else the season could be over before dusk gives way to darkness in Salt Lake City.

-Wrap Up Wilson and White
Since quarterback Jordan Wynn suffered his fourth shoulder injury and retired, the Utah offense has returned to closer resemble the spread offenses that took the program to BCS bowls and undefeated seasons. Despite standing 6-foot-6, freshman signal-caller Travis Wilson is deceptively mobile and was even featured to provide a change of pace.

Now that he is in the starting lineup, Wilson hasn't been featured as much as a runner, but his ability to extend plays and break containment will be a concern, especially with several game-time decisions at linebacker.

Tackling with also be critical to limit senior running back John White IV, who has struggled to get on track after rushing for 1,519 yards in his first year in the FBS. His three best performances have come when getting 20 or more carries, so Cal will be in an advantageous position if it forces Utah to abandon the run. If White is able to remain a factor, he can start wearing down the defense and turn three-yard plays into five or six after first contact.

Cal must match the physicality Wilson and White will present to keep the Utes from staying on schedule and grinding out a win.

-Stop Star
While Cal has and will face a litany of superstars on both sides of the ball, Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei may well be the most dominant player it will line up against in 2012. His first seven minutes against USC center Khaled Holmes were an absolute masterpiece on how an interior defender can absolutely take over a game, forcing two bad snaps that were recovered by the Utes along with a tackle for loss.

Considering how the interior of the Cal offensive line was absolutely massacred by Stanford, the trio of Jordan Rigsbee, Brian Schwenke, and Dominic Galas must be at their best to limit the potential top 10 draft pick. If Lotulelei spends as much time in the backfield as Cardinal defenders Shayne Skov, Ben Gardner, and Henry Anderson did last week, the three rushing yards produced in the Big Game might look good in comparison.

-Play Like There's No Tomorrow
Yeah, you have seen this one before, but if Cal loses to struggling Utah, would you give them any hope of upsetting Oregon and Oregon State to make a bowl game? Exactly.

After playing with no inspiration and imagination against its biggest rival, Cal needs to again unleash the aggression and desperation it channeled so well during its two-game winning streak.

And a little creativity might be a nice addition as well. Plowing a man into the line from the shotgun needing a yard with the season on the line isn't exactly the Tedford who opened his Cal tenure with a double pass for a touchdown.

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.


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