Q: Coach Andersen and Coach Whittingham have a long standing relationship. Do you think this game means any more to Whittingham than others on the schedule?
Dan Sorensen: "Yes and no. In some ways, the Pac-12 south games mean more because if Utah wins those games, they control their own destiny in terms of the division title. However, Whittingham is a competitive guy and Utah wants to win this game. The familiarity between staffs adds a little intrigue during game week, but once the game starts, I don't think it makes that much of an impact. That said, make no mistake - Whittingham would love nothing more than beat Anderson - especially on his home field."
Q: What playmakers on offense should Beaver fans be aware of?
DS: "Utah's offense is led by junior quarterback Troy Williams. Williams has passed for 1500 yards and 7 touchdowns in the first half of the season. He also has three rushing touchdowns. Although Williams isn't afraid to run the ball himself, he's definitely more of a pass-first quarterback. As the season has progressed, Williams is getting better at making good decisions, and the Utah offense has started to open up a bit more than we saw last season. Receiver Tim Patrick is another player to watch. He's averaging more than 17 yards per catch and has caught five of Williams' seven touchdown passes. He's coming back from an injury that limited him in the Cal game and held him out against Arizona altogether, but he should finally be healthy."
"At running back, true freshman Zach Moss is the best of a banged up bunch, but it's a little unclear whether Moss will play on Saturday as he's dealing with his own injury issues. In the trenches, pay attention to left tackle Garett Bolles. He's one of the best offensive linemen in the conference and plays with a mean streak. He's been every bit worthy of his five star rating coming out of JUCO."
Q: Who are the playmakers on defense we should be on the lookout for?
DS: "Utah's strength on defense continues to be its defensive line. End Hunter Dimick is arguably the best edge rusher in the conference and has five sacks and seven TFL this season. Junior tackle Lowell Lotulelei was a first-team all conference selection last season, and despite the fact that he's had to battle through injuries this season, he's once again been a disruptive force. In the secondary, safety Marcus Williams is one of the top free safeties in college football. He was first team All-Conference last season, and is having another outstanding year. He leads the Utes with three interceptions. Strong safety Chase Hansen is a big hitter that is playing the best football of his career right now. Overall, this is a stout Utah defense that has played up to expectations."
Q: What is the injury report heading into Saturday’s match-up?
DS: "Utah has been decimated by injuries this season. Frankly, I've never seen a season quite like it. They've lost five starters to season ending injuries: center Hiva Lutui, center JJ Dielman, tight end Siale Fakailoatonga, defensive end Kylie Fitts, and running back Armand Shyne - who at this point is Utah's leading rusher. In addition to those five, there are another half a dozen or so players that may miss the Oregon State game, including backup running back Troy McCormick, center Lo Falemaka, and starting running back Zach Moss. The good news for the Utes is that this team has the most depth of any in the Kyle Whittingham era. They've needed every bit of it."
Q: What do the Beavers need to do in order to win on Saturday?
DS: "The best recipe for success for the Beavers on offense would be to attack Utah over the top with the long pass. Getting beat by the long ball on the outside is where the Ute defense has been most vulnerable. Utah has been pretty stout against the run for the most part. Their biggest struggles have been against especially mobile and slippery quarterbacks, so a strong game by Garretson could pose problems for the Utes. On defense, they need to find a way to slow down and confuse Troy Williams. Utah is particularly thin at running back right now, so the Utes might be forced to turn to the passing game more than they'd like. If that's the case, harassing and confusing Williams is the best bet for success. I think the biggest factor will be turnovers. If Utah wins or is even in the turnover battle, they will likely win. If Utah is -2 or more in turnover margin, the Beavers will pull off the upset."
Q: What is your prediction including score?
DS: "This is a tough one to predict. On paper, Utah is more talented than Oregon State. That said, Utah is also really banged up and the weather reports are hinting at a storm that resembles a hurricane ready to hit Corvallis on Saturday. If the weather is especially miserable, this is going to be a close game that will be won in the trenches and on special teams. Of course, turnovers are the X factor. At the end of the day, I think Troy Williams will do enough to get the job done. Utah wins 23-16. If the weather is bad enough to significantly impact play, I predict a 13-7 Utah win."