Game Preview- Utah at Iowa State

The Utes travel to Ames, Iowa to take on a surprsing Iowa State team in their first true road test...

Facts and Factors

No. 10/10 Utah (4-0, 2-0 MWC) comes off a bye week to play Iowa State (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday, Oct. 9. Game time is 6 p.m. CT (5 p.m. MT). The game will be televised by Fox College Sports, which is available locally on Comcast's Sports Entertainment Package (channels 262, 263 or 264) and DIRECTV's Sports Pack (channels 617 or 623). Radio is ESPN700 AM (espn700sports.com).

Iowa State is 3-0 at home this season, with wins over Northern Illinois, Northern Iowa and Texas Tech. Utah is 1-0 on the road, with a win at New Mexico.

The Utes jumped to No. 10 in both polls in the latest rankings, moving up three places in the Associated Press poll and two spots in the USA Today Coaches' poll. It marks Utah's highest ranking in two seasons. Utah, which finished the 2008 season ranked No. 2 in the nation, did not crack the top 10 until Oct. 26 that year.

Utah is winless against the Cyclones in four previous meetings, all played in the 1970s.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham's teams are 5-0 coming off regular season bye weeks, with victories over Wyoming (2005, 2007), Colorado State (2006, 2009) and New Mexico (2008).

Counting bowl games and season openers, Whittingham is 15-2 when he has had extra preparation time. Whittingham is 4-2 in season openers, 5-0 coming off byes and 6-0 in bowl games (his bowl record includes a victory as the co-head coach of the 2005 Fiesta Bowl team).

Utah is ranked in the top 10 in the nation in both scoring offense (44.2 ppg, tied for No. 6) and scoring defense (12.8 ppg, No. 7). The Utes are also ranked No. 7 in total defense (246.8 yards per game), No. 7 in pass efficiency offense (172.8) and No. 11 in rushing defense (86.8 ypg).

This is the first true test for the Utes on the season and we'll have a better idea as to who they are and what they're made of after going on the road to face a decent Big 12 team in Iowa State. The Cyclones upset Texas Tech last weekend behind a four touchdown day from quarterback Austen Arnaud and are a team that always plays hard under second year coach Paul Rhodes. Iowa State isn't the most talented team in the land, but they're still a BCS Conference opponent; one that Utah shouldn't take lightly.

When Utah has the Ball

Iowa State's defense isn't stellar, but the Utes offense is yet to face a hostile crowd yet this year and that could play into the Cyclones' favor.

The Utes are going to open up the passing game against Iowa State, and they're going to have to if they want to win a game that is going to be more difficult than many people think. Jordan Wynn should be back at full speed and 100% healthy after sitting two games with a thumb injury, only playing one half against San Jose State, and then enjoying a bye week last week.

The pass defense has been pretty good, giving up only 194 yards per game, which is especially impressive considering they played pass happy Texas Tech last week. If the Utes' receivers and Wynn are rusty from the bye week, Iowa State might end up stacking the box and loading up on the run in an attempt to make Wynn beat them deep. Stretching that defense is going to be key, which is where Devonte Christopher, Shaky Smithson, and Reggie Dunn come in. Those are the Utes best deep threats and if Wynn can hit one of them early for a long pass, the defense will have to respect that, opening up the running game for Wide and Asiata. Getting a few balls to Jereme Brooks over the middle early is also going to help soften that defense. Brooks has been unbelievable in the first half of games racking up a majority of his catches, yards, and touchdowns.

Iowa State is having problems stopping the run, currently giving up almost 200 yards oer game on the ground. With three sophomore linebackers, the experience just isn't their against a Utah offensive with loads of experience. Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide should be able to exploit that inexperience and break off a few longer runs than they have in the first four games of the season. If the Utes finish under 200 yards rushing for the game, they shoud be disappointed.

Iowa State has done a great job of forcing turnovers to this point with 12 total takeaways. They've done a tremendous job forcing interceptions with 8 through the first five games, with linebacker Mike Klein returning two of those for touchdowns. It is imperative for Utah to limit the turnovers in the game to two or less. Anymore than that and they're asking for an upset.

Advantage: Utah

When Iowa State has the ball

It all starts and stops with quarterback Austen Arnaud. Despite the pedestrian numbers so far this year, he's a very good quarterback and one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country as evidenced by his four touchdown game last week against Texas Tech. Arnaud is at his best when he's on the run and rolling out of the pocket. The Utes haven't faced a quarterback this year with his ability and keeping him contained is going to be a huge key.

Running back Alexander Robinson ran for almost 1,200 yards in 2009, but has been hampered by an injury in the early going in 2010. He'll likely play, but probably won't be at full strength. Without his running ability, the Cyclones may end up becoming more one dimensional than they would like, forcing Arnaud and his receivers to make plays.

The receiving corp for Iowa State is nothing that is going to scare anyone. Darks is a speedster and the best of the bunch, but Brandon Burton shouldn't have a problem shutting him down. Blechen, Justin Taplin-Ross and Lamar Chapman are going to be used often in blitz packages to disrupt Arnaud and get the pressure on him that the derfensive ends have not been getting on quarterbacks yet this year.

Derrick Shelby had his best game two weeks ago against San Jose State after taking a week off. With another week of rest during the bye, Shelby should be at, or near, full strength and ready to terrorize quarterbacks. When healthy, he's easily the best pass rusher from the defensive end spot and could be ready to showcase that today.

Advantage: Utah

Special Teams

Sean Sellwood should have his busiest game of the year as he really hasn't had much work so far at this point in the season. The Iowa State defense isn't great, but they'll force the Utes into more punts than they've had. Kirby Van Der Kamp has a bad name and is an average punter, but his punt coverage team has been stellar, ranking number 2 in the nation giving up an average return of 0.0. If someone is finally going to get some return yardage on them, it's Shaky Smithson, who already has tow punt returns for touchdowns on the year.

Advantage: Utah

Intangibles

Road games against BCS Conference teams are never easy (unless you're playing Washington State). Ames, Iowa is more hostile than people might be giving it credit and the Utes are going to have their hands full with a crowd that helped lead the way in the victory over Texas Tech.

Austen Arnaud is a senior quarterback that is barring down on multiple career records for the Cyclones. He's taken on many ranked teams in his career. Jordan Wynn is making his first true road start since the BYU game last year and has never won a game on the road as a starter (0-2). Out of his comfort zone of Rice-Eccles Stadium, Wynn has had two poor performances. A third could spell disaster for the Utes.

Temperature at kickoff should be sunny and around 78 degrees with light wind. The better the conditions, the better it is for the more skilled team. The Utes are that team.

Kyle Whittingham has never lost coming off of a bye week. He's never lost a bowl game. When he has more than a week to prepare, he's undefeated. The Utes were off last week.

Advantage: Even

Prediction

This isn't going to be easy. Iowa State likes to force turnovers and the Utes like the turn it over. On the road, you generally can't do that and win. Every elite team has a game where they play down to their competition and are in a game that is closer than it should be. This is going to be that game.

Iowa State is going to keep it close, very close, for at least three quarters, but the talent of the Utes will ultimately win out when Jordan Wynn hits Jereme Brooks for the game winner with just over 2:00 minutes to play giving Utah the victory and keeping their BCS hopes alive.

Utah 27 Iowa State 20


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