Jordan Wynn vs. Tommy Reese
Rees is just a freshman, but has loads of talent. He threw for 334 yards and 4 touchdowns in his first career start against Tulsa, but also turned the ball over three times with interceptions. The Utah defense is far and away better than Tulsa's. How he handles the pressure against a stout defense will be a huge key to the game. Wynn had his worst overall game as a Ute against TCU with mistakes, poor throws, and looking out of his element. Notre Dame doesn't play much defense so he should be able to get back to his norm. A consistent, mistake-free game will be huge in regaining his confidence.
Matt Asiata, Eddie Wide, and Shawn Asiata vs. Cierre Wood and Robert Hughes
With Armando Allen out, redshirt freshman Cierre Wood gets the nod. Wood has almost 300 yards in spot duty on the year, but is an elite talent who could be a good one down the road. Now that the starting job is his and he has his first career start behind him, watch out. Wide and Asiata struggled last week against TCU, but so does everyone else. They should be able to get back on track against an Irish defense that gives up almost 165 yards per game on the ground.
Jereme Brooks , Luke Matthews, Shaky Smithson and DeVonte Christopher vs. Michael Floyd, John Goodman, TJ Jones
Floyd is one of the best receivers in the country and a future first round pick. He's similar to Pitt's Jon Baldwin, but an even better route runner. He'll be tough for Brandon Burton to stop. Goodman is a former QB and a tremendous athlete, while Jones is a real burner who will stretch the field. The Irish will be without speedy playmaker Theo Riddick, who has 38 catches on the year. TCU absolutely shut down the Utah receivers on Saturday. Outside of DeVonte Christopher, they couldn't get open at all. Brooks, Smithson, and Matthews combined for 3 catches for 18 yards. Christopher has emerged as the best receiver on the team. He has future All American written all over him.
Kendrick Moeia vs. Tyler Eifert
Eifert is getting the start in place of the injured Kyle Rudolph, who might be the best tight end in the country. He's a good athlete and pass catcher, but leaves a lot to be desired in the blocking game. Moeia is open down the middle at least once every game. Why the Utes don't go to him more, is beyond me. He's going to be very good when it's all said and done.
John Cullen vs. Zack Martin
Martin is a first year starter who came to Notre Dame as a highly regarded recruit. He's pretty athletic and is a better pass blocker than run blocker. Cullen was abused on Saturday by TCU. He just couldn't handle the speed. Notre Dame won't have that kind of speed this week.
Caleb Schlauderaff vs. Chris Stewart
Stewart is one of the largest players in the country at 6'5" 351 pounds. His mother was a woolly mammoth and his father was a Greek god. He eats school children whole and washes the down by ripping fire hydrants from the ground and drinking them dry. He's also a pretty good football player and the most experienced player for the Irish on the offensive side of the ball with 31 career starts. A beast of run blocker. Schlauderaff, like the rest of the offensive line, had a rough game against TCU. He's too good not to bounce back though and pave the way for the Utes to run for 150+ yards.
Zane Taylor vs. Braxston Cave
Cave is in his first year as a starter, but has impressed the coaching staff to this point with his handling of the offensive line. He's got a nasty streak and loves to run block. Taylor was probably the best of the offensive linemen against TCU, but that isn't saying much. He'll have a much better week this week against Notre Dame's 3-4 defense.
Tevita Stevens vs. Trevor Robinson
Robinson is a future pro and very fundamentally sound. He's got 23 starts under his belt and has been at least a part time starter since his true freshman year. Very good size and very skilled. Stevens had it bad against TCU, getting beat time and time again. He's a very good talent and the best downfield blocker for the Utes.
Advantage: Notre Dame
Tony Bergstrom vs. Taylor Dever
Dever is a senior who's had to wait his turn by a few future NFL players. He's not the biggest guy, but is very steady and a solid pass blocker. Poor Tony Bergstrom. He must hate playing TCU after being taken to school in each of the last two years by TCU defensive ends. He's still a very good tackle who will push for All Conference honors this year.
Tevita Finau, Christian Cox, and Derrick Shelby vs. Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore
Both Johnson and Lewis-Moore are huge defensive ends that have good speed. Johnson is the better pass rusher with five and a half sacks and should be in the NFL eventually. Lewis-Moore is a hard worker who has also played at the nose tackle spot and is a better run stopper than pass rusher. The ends for Utah were essentially murdered by TCU. They just didn't have the speed and athleticism to compete. Finau steps in for the injured Tui'one, but this group has been somewhat of a disappointment as a whole on the year.
Advantage: Notre Dame
Sealver Siliga and Dave Kruger vs. Sean Cwynar
Cwynar is very similar to Dave Kruger; a tall kid with long arms that is as strong as an ox. He does a good job of taking up multiple blockers. Siliga and Kruger were overmatched against TCU, but shouldn't have the same problems against Notre Dame. It's kind of getting to the point that the Utah defense goes as these two go.
Chad Manis, Matt Martinez, Chaz Walker vs. Darius Fleming, Carlo Calabrese, and Manti Te'o
Te'o has 100 tackles on the season and is a physical freak. Every school in the country wanted him out of high school and he's living up to the billing. Does tend to over-run plays at times or be out of position. Calabrese is third on the team in tackles and has two and a half sacks. He's a real hard nosed player who likes to hit. Fleming has been a terror coming after the quarterback when he puts his hand down or blitzes with five and a half sacks. Missing Manis last week hurt the Utes, but wouldn't have made much of a difference. Martinez and Walker racked up a ton of tackles and were steady, but didn't have the athleticism to slow down the Horned Frogs. Notre Dame won't present anywhere near the same problems.
Brandon Burton and Lamar Chapman vs. Darrin Walls and Gary Gray
The Notre Dame pass defense isn't great at 80th in the country giving up over 228 yards per game, but the senior corners are both pretty good. Walls has been starting as far back as 2006 while Gray has 16 career starts. Both are good sized corners who can help in run support. Burton and Champan looked much worse last week than they really are. With a true freshman in Rees under center for Notre Dame, Champan is going to be blitzing a lot. Burton is going to get the task of shutting down Michael Floyd. It won't be easy, but I expect him to pick off a pass with Floyd likely seeing a lot of balls thrown his way.
Justin Taplin-Ross and Brian Blechen vs. Zeke Motta and Harrison Smith
Smith has 30 career starts and is pretty good in pass coverage, with a penchant for breaking up passes. Motta is a big hitter who used to be a linebacker. He was highly regarded coming out of high school, but is in his first year as a starter. Blechen was the only Utah player who didn't quit on Saturday. Says a lot about the true freshman. Taplin-Ross had a tough game, was beat often, and missed tackles. He's had a bad couple of weeks against Air Force and TCU and needs to be better going forward.
Joe Phillips vs. David Ruffer
Ruffer is perfect on the year making all thirteen field goals tries. Phillips has only missed once. These are two of the best you'll find in the country, but we'll give Ruffer the edge kicking on his own grass.
Advantage: Notre Dame
Sean Sellwood vs. Ben Turk
Turk doesn't have the biggest leg averaging less than 39 yards per punt while Sellwood is over 42. His 67 yarder last week to pin TCU at the seven yard line was a thing of beauty.
Shaky Smithson and Reggie Dunn vs. John Goodman and Bennet Jackson
Goodman is averging only 2.4 yards per punt return in place of the injured Armando Allen. Bennet has been pretty good returning kickoffs at over 22 yards per return, but is yet to break one longer than 43 yards. Shaky and Dunn were taken out of the game completely by TCU. They're still the premier return tandem in the country, but might be slowed by the thick grass at Notre Dame Stadium.
Totals- Utah 9 Notre Dame 3 Even 5
Utah vs Notre Dame- Position Battles
Ute Zone Top Stories
Position Grades: Utah vs. USCSteve Bartle grades each position group following Utah's big 31-27 win over USC.
Ute ZoneYesterday at 1:09 AM
Video Recap: Utah vs. USCUteZone's Michelle Bodkin recaps Utah's thrilling win over USC Friday night.
Ute ZoneYesterday at 12:39 AM
Game Matchups: Utah Defense vs. USC OffenseUteZone breaks down the position matchups between the USC offense and the Utah defense in tonight's Pac-12 opener for the Utes.
Ute ZoneFriday at 9:43 AM
Dimick embodies 'Hometown Hero'Senior defensive end Hunter Dimick has truly been a "Hometown Hero" for the Utes. And his journey has been well worth the effort.
Ute ZoneThursday at 6:22 PM