Utah Quarterback and Wide Receivers vs Stanford Secondary
Travis Wilson is the guy now that Kendal Thompson is out. If we see the gunslinging Wilson we saw against Oregon. I know I've asked Wilson to be more of a risk-taker, but if there's a game and a team that he needs to be conservative against, it's Stanford. They don't force a ton of turnovers (only 9 this year), but the field position battle for two offensively challenged teams is going to be a huge key. Dink and dunk, find the backs and tight end, and move the chains enough to score a bit and keep the defense off of the field. That's all Wilson needs to be asked of this week. Without Tim Patrick and Dres Anderson, his receiving options just aren't good enough for him to be asked to do more against this level of defense.
Wilson is going to have a tough time against this secondary that gives up only 170 yards per game on the ground and just 8 passing touchdowns. Safety Jordan Richards is a stud with 61 tackles. He's an animal out there and will be playing near the line of scrimmage a lot. With three seniors and a junior in the secondary, these guys just don't make mistakes. Corner Alex Carter has a team leading 6 pass breakups and an interception while Wayne Lyons has 3 breakups. They're not picking off a ton of passes, but they're more than effective in stopping the pass and helping in run support.
Utah Running Backs and Tight Ends vs Stanford Linebackers
Devontae Booker- Are you ready? This is Stanford. They do things to running backs that should be considered illegal. 110 yards per game on the ground and 3.1 yards per carry are nutty numbers. If Booker can go over 100 again this week, and he may have to, you'll have to tip your cap to one of the country's top backs. How much will we see Bubba Poole this week? He had a bigger role last week, and killed Stanford in both the run game and passing game last year. With Wilson making a lot of dump-offs last week, we might see more Poole.
Stanford is led by their linebackers in many aspects, and it starts with the run, but they also get in the backfield quite a bit in getting after the quarterback. A.J. Tarpley is one of the best linebackers in the conference and is third on the team with 58 tackles. He gets everyone in the right spots. Blake Martinez leads the team with 74 tackles, and also has 4.5 sacks, as does Kevin Anderson, who has 9.5 tackles for loss.. Peter Kalambayi leads the team with 6.5 sacks and is a pass rushing specialist. There are plenty of other guys that will get run due to depth and they won't be worn down by Booker. Utah's running game is good. Stanford's linebacking corps is great.
Utah Offensive Line vs Stanford Defensive Line
So which offensive line are we going to see this week? It's a week to week grind with these guys as the pass blocking has generally been inconsistent, while the run blocking has mostly been good, but prone to lapses. Fortunately for the Utes, they're pretty healthy on the line, something most Pac 12 teams can't say. If they can give Travis Wilson as much time as he generally had last week, the Utes will have a chance to move the ball against this vaunted defense.
Stanford's 3 man front isn't as loaded as in year's past, but there are plenty of playmakers. End Henry Anderson is a load at 6-6, 287 pounds. The senior has 2 sacks on the year and a team leading 8 QB hurries. Next to him is David Parry, who's been banged up with injuries this season, but is one of the best interior defensive linemen in the conference. Blake Leuders rounds out the group and has 5 tackles for loss. They all setup the plays so the linebackers can make them.
Stanford Quarterback and Wide Receivers vs Utah Secondary
Kevin Hogan has had a Travis Wilson-like season, filled with inconsistency. He's completing 63% of his passes with 13 touchdowns and 7 interceptions to go along with 228 yards per game. Hogan is a more than capable runner and can do some damage with his feet. Only an average of 18 yards per game, but he's a big kid that can run people over. When Hogan is on and rolling, Stanford will put up points. When he's not, they have trouble scoring. Hogan does have some options to throw the ball to and that starts with Ty Montgomery, who will be used in the passing game and run game. You'll even see him line up at quarterback in the wildcat. Montgomery has 56 catches on the year and 3 touchdowns, but only 9.8 yards per catch. He might be more dangerous as a runner averaging 6.2 yards per carry and is a possible first round pick. Devin Cajuste is a matchup nightmare with his size and has 25 catches for an average of 16.4 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Whoever gets the Montgomery matchup is going to run around a lot. Whether it's Hatfield, Rowe, or Thomas, someone is going to get their fill on Saturday. Cajuste isn't a fun guy to guard either, and you've got to think that maybe Hatfield draws that matchup. Now we know that Tevin Carter is out for the year. That means that Marcus Williams, who continues to get better, will be the guy, unless they decide to slide Eric Rowe back there due to the Utes likely playing a lot of 4-3. When Montgomery goes deep (and he will at times), Williams or Rowe needs to be ready to help out his fellow defensive backs or #7 for Stanford will be putting 7s on the scoreboard. Brian Blechen will likely play closer to the line of scrimmage in somewhat of a mini-backer role to help in run support against the power run game of the Cardinal.
Stanford Running Backs and Tight Ends vs Utah Linebackers
Stanford does it by committee, not able to find 'the guy' and listing four separate players as co-starters at the running back spot. Remound Wright leads the team averaging 44.9 yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry, but has only 81yards the last three games. Barry Sanders Jr. (yes, that Barry Sanders) puts up 32.4 yards per and an average of 6.3 per carry, but only has 46 attempts on the year (also known as one week for Devontae Booker). Kelsey Young and possibly Ricky Seale will also get carries. As a whole, they're averaging 140 yards per game. That's respectable, but nowhere near the total we've come to expect from a team built on a power run game. Tight end Austin Hooper is second on the team with 27 catches.
The Utes are banged up at the linebacker spot, but they're getting closer to get all of their guys back. Most are just dealing with bumps and bruises. Gionni Paul looked slow against Oregon last week. Stanford is the perfect rebound opponent due to their style and he should notch close to 15 tackles. Same goes for Jared Norris. You'll likely see Utah use three linebackers this week so Jason Fanaika and Jacoby Hale will get a lot of run as well. Most important thing this week? Tackle. Can't let the Cardinal pickup any extra yards after contact or they'll wear you down.
Stanford Offensive Line vs Utah Defensive Line
The Utah defensive line is going up against one of their tougher match ups in a big, physical Stanford front that has allowed only 18 sacks through 9 games so far. USC was a test. This will be like a final exam. They're not as good as they've been in recent years, but left tackle Andrus Peat is one of the best in the country and future first round pick. Junior left guard Josh Garnett is a load at 6-5, 325 and a future Sunday player. Right tackle Kyle Murphy also is a next level guy. The pass blocking has been good. The run blocking has as well, although the yards aren't coming as much as you'd like due to deficiencies in the backfield. Either way, this is going to be a fun battle to watch. If Nate Orchard and Hunter Dimick can do their thing, the Utes are should be able to slow Stanford's oft challenged offense.
Utah lost the special teams battle last week and ended up losing by 24 points. Maybe this unit's value is larger than any of us thought. Tom Hackett is the best punter in the country and while Andy Phillips is struggling by his standards, there aren't many kickers in the country you'd take before him. Kaelin Clay continues to keep us all on our toes with kick returns, getting ever-so-close to breaking one the last few weeks.
Return man Ty Montgomery is averaing a ridiculous 19.8 yards per return on punts with 2 touchdowns. After Utah's issue last week, they'll need to be extra focused to slow him down. Montgomery also pitches in 25.2 yards per punt return. Punter Ben Rhyne is averaging over 39 yards per punt, a respectable number, while kicker Jordan Williamson is 11-17 on the year, but has missed two kicks inside of 30 yards.
Game Matchups: Utah at Stanford
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