Jordan Wynn vs. Pete Thomas
Thomas is a true freshman, but hasn't played like one over the past four games throwing for 7 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions. He's completing a tremendous 67.7 percent of his passes on the season with two 300+ yard games. Not one to get outside the pocket and run, Thomas is going to do most of his damage throwing the ball. He put up an incredible 281.94 passer rating last week against UNLV in completing 10 of 14 passes for 233 yards and 3 touchdowns. Wynn had his worst game of the season, and arguably his worst overall game as a Ute last week (considering the opponent). After the huge game against Iowa State the week before, he regressed in throwing three interceptions, and not being as accurate as he was the week before. The talent is there and he's still an upper tier Mountain West Conference quarterback, but the games like the one last week against Wyoming need to be few and far between. He needs to get things on track before the meat of the schedule kicks in next week with Air Force against a Colorado State squad that is last in the nation in pass efficiency defense.
Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide vs. Raymond Carter and Leonard Mason
Raymond Carter is listed as the starter on the depth chart, so we'll leave him up there for now despite missing the last two games due to injury. He's a transfer from UCLA that was one of the top 15 running backs in the nation coming out of high school in 2007. Carter is very shifty and does a great job catching the ball out of the backfield. Mason ran for over 750 yards on the season in 2009 while splitting carries and is poised to repeat those numbers again this year. While Carter has grabbed his share of the carries, Leonard has excelled the last two games as the starter with back to back hundred yard performances. He's averaging a hefty 6.3 yards per carry on the year and is a real load to bring down. Asiata put up the Utes' first 100 yard game of the season last week and looks to have established himself as the primary and more consistent back going forward. He's running downhill on every play and running people over often. Wide is still running tentatively, dancing around in the backfield, while trying to find an opening and it is hurting his production. He needs to take a page out of Asiata's book and run right behind his blockers while looking for that elusive opening. Until he starts doing that, he's going to see his carries drop.
Jereme Brooks , Luke Matthews, Shaky Smithson and DeVonte Christopher vs. Lou Greenwood, Tyson Liggett, and T.J. Borcky
Liggett is a senior and the most consistent of the bunch, good for 4-5 catches per game. He's not going to stretch the field, but is a solid possession receiver. Greenwood leads the team in receiving yards and is a speedster that puts up huge plays as evidenced by his 2 catches for 128 yards last week against UNLV. He's averaging almost 16 yards per catch. Borcky is a former QB, who's a solid red-zone threat with good size and leaping ability. If CSU can get into the red-zone, the Utes should watch for him on the corner fade route. Matthews had his best career game last week with a touchdown on a reverse flea flicker where he found himself wide open. The four catches are a huge step in building his confidence. Shaky hasn't turned out to be the receiving threat that I thought he'd be, but is still a threat to take it the distance every time he touches the ball. Brooks has disappeared the last two weeks with only 5 catches for 50 yards. While Ute fans shouldn't be concerned, Brooks needs to get back and re-establish himself as the go-to guy before next week. Christopher just keeps chugging along with 3 catches for 40 yards last week. The light seems to have come on and he's turned into a real beast. His effort to get into the end zone on last week's touchdown, where he dragged a defender 5 yards, was impressive.
Kendrick Moeia vs. Eric Peitz and Zac Puaga
Peitz has four catches over the last two weeks, three of which have gone for touchdowns. Puaga is a big threat catching balls out of the backfield. He's got 18 catches on the year and is one of the best receiving fullbacks in the country. Moeia didn't play last week and Brad Clifford took advantage with 5 catches. Now Clifford is going to be out again for a few weeks and Kendrick is going to need more production than he's had to maintain his starting spot when Brad comes back.
Advantage: Colorado State
John Cullen vs. Paul Madsen
Madsen is the only full-time returning starter from last year's offensive line and is the Rams' best lineman. Excels in both run and pass blocking and should be on an NFL roster next year. Cullen has been even better than people anticipated coming in. While not the most physically imposing lineman, his quick feet have kept Jordan Wynn and Terrance Cain off of the grass all year.
Advantage: Colorado State
Caleb Schlauderaff vs. Jake Gdowski
Gdowski is a captain, despite only having four starts entering the year. Is a better run blocker than pass blocker, but isn't a next level type of guy. I only saw one mistake made by Schlauderaff in the entire Wyoming game. He's unbelievably good and is getting All American consideration.
Zane Taylor vs. Weston Richburg
Taylor hasn't really had a tough matchup all year to this point from an opposing center and Richburg is no different. He's a freshman than has also played at the guard spot, but is going to get manhandled by Siliga and Kruger. Taylor continues to anchor and run the best offensive line in the conference and should be on his way to first team All Conference honors.
Tevita Stevens vs. Joe Caprioglio
Caprioglio started the year as a reserve tackle but has filled in adequately since being named the starter following an injury to former right guard Mark Starr. He is a big kid at 6'6" and 307 pounds, but is still learning how to play. His future is definitely at the tackle spot though. Stevens continues to make a case for All Conference honors and has been the biggest surprise on the offensive line with his progression from last year to this year. He's a beast as a run blocker and the future center of the team.
Tony Bergstrom vs. Mark Starr
Starr is a former tight end who has 22 career stars over his four years. Not the biggest kid, but has the ability to get downfield in run blocking better than most tackles. Bergstrom continues to get lost on the star-studded offensive line as he's goes about his business. He'll get more accolades next year as the star of the line, but continues to excel in both blocking phases of the game.
Junior Tui'one, Christian Cox, and Derrick Shelby vs. Davis Burl and Broderick Sargent
The defensive end spot has been decimated by injuries with multiple players being lost for the season. Sargent has one of the best names in college football and is a jack of all trades. He's played tight end, linebacker, and fullback in his short career, but seems to have settled at defensive end despite his smallish frame. He's got two sacks on the year. Burl was brought in as a safety and has unbelievable speed for a D-End, but he's still learning the position as he looks for his first sack. Does anyone play harder than Christina Cox? He's not getting to the quarterback a ton, but is gobbling up running backs more often than a defensive end normally does. Tui'one hasn't been very effective the past few weeks rushing the passer, but like Cox, has been stout in run support. Shelby looks to be close to 100% and has been the most effective defensive end the last two weeks. Look for a breakout game this week with multiple sacks against the mediocre Rams' offensive line.
Sealver Siliga and Dave Kruger vs. Ty Whittier and Guy Miller
Miller set the CSU single game record last week with 4.5 sacks against UNLV. He's a big kid with a quick first step and is one of the best DTs in the conference. Whittier is a former defensive end who's moved over due to a few injuries. He's very tall at 6'5", but slight at only 264 pounds. The Utah interior offensive linemen shouldn't have much trouble pushing him around. Siliga and Kruger had arguably their best game since the opener against Pitt last week against Wyoming. Neither made a big dent in the box score, but were tremendous is manhandling the Cowboys' offensive line. Outside of Brandon Burton, they've been the two best defensive players on the team this year.
Chad Manis, Matt Martinez, Chaz Walker vs. Ricky Brewer, Alex Williams, and Mychal Sisson
Colorado State is giving up over 200 yards a game on the ground and the Utes should be able to repeat that. Sisson is the best of the trio, but he's not real big looking like a linebacker playing in a safety's body. He's going to have trouble shedding blockers if the Utah O-line can get up-field at all. Brewer is the team's leading tackler and a very good athlete, but like Sisson, is undersized. Williams missed most of last year with an injury suffered against BYU. He's the quarterback of the defense and a very smart and instinctual player. Walker's ridiculous tackling numbers from earlier in the year have dropped, but the overall production of the linebacking corp has not. The biggest concern has to be what happens if there is an injury because the depth isn't very good for the Utes.
Brandon Burton and Lamar Chapman vs. DeAngelo Wilkinson and Shaq Bell
Bell and Wilkinson have a been a nice surprise for Colorado State in helping keep their pass defense respectable, especially the true freshman Bell. While neither has an interception on the year, they've helped keep the opposing teams at just over 200 yards a game through the air. Bell is likely to match-up on Jereme Brooks most of the day and Brooks could take advantage of his inexperience. Chapman continues to impress people with his ability to blitz. He's racking up sacks and TFLs at an uncanny rate for a quarterback. Burton is the best corner in the Mountain West and should be an All American. He won't be tested this week.
Justin Taplin-Ross and Brian Blechen vs. Elijah-Blu Smith and Ivory Herd<
Both Smith and Herd are undersized safeties, but pretty good in pass coverage. Smith has three career interceptions while Herd, a converted running back, picked off his first career pass earlier in the year. He's a much bigger hitter than his size would indicate. While Blechen continues to get the pub, Taplin-Ross has been the better and more complete player so far this year. Both are devastating hitters who excel in blitz packages and getting into the backfield.
Joe Phillips vs. Ben DeLine
DeLine is 10-13 on the year kicking field goals, but has also missed three extra points. Phillips had his first miss last week when an extra point was blocked. He won't miss another one of those all year. Don't be surprised if he finishes the year perfect on field goal attempts.
Sean Sellwood vs Pete Kontodiakos
Kontodiakos has been fairly good averaging 42.4 yards per kick while pinning 8 kicks inside the opponent's 20 yard line. Sellwood had an off-week last week, but should be back to booming his 45 plus yard kicks this week. He's still the second best kicker in the conference.
Shaky Smithson and Reggie Dunn vs. Derek Good and Tyson Liggett
Liggett is only averaging 2.2 yards per punt return, but is a good hands guy who doesn't drop them, so he's still got the job. Good leads the nation in kickoff return average, but is yet to take one to the house. Shaky is probably the best and most electrifying punt returner in the country. He hasn't taken a punt return for a touchdown in the last three games. He could very well break that streak this week. Dunn needs more touches on kickoff returns. He's the fastest player on the team and should be the main man on kickoffs.
Totals- Utah 15 Colorado State 2
Utah vs Colorado State- Position Battles
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