WR D.J. Foster (USA Today)

Who has the edge in each of the matchups for Saturday's big game?

Utah and Arizona State meet in Salt Lake City with big Pac 12 implications

Utah Quarterback and Wide Receivers vs Arizona State Secondary

Travis Wilson will need somewhat of a bounce-back game this week if the Utes are going to take down the Sun Devils. With the way they bring pressure, Wilson is going to get hit, and needs to be able to step up in the pocket to complete his throws. You'll see a lot of quick throws this week, and Britain Covey should be on the receiving end of a lot of those, along with the tight ends. Wilson's most important thing to do on Saturday night is going to be the pre-snpa read, making sure his linemen know who is picking up who, and then know where his first two options are going to be.

The Devils will bring their safeties up in the box, and blitz them quite a bit. Jordan Simone leads the team with 51 tackles, incuding 6 for loss, and he has 2 interceptions. Next to him is Lloyd Carrington who has 22 tackles and 4 pass breakups. Both are seniors. Kweishi Brown is another senior, and he'll line up with a big 6', 210 pound body. Brown has 1 interception and 4 passes defended on the season. Sophomore corner Armand Perry has 15 tackles. This group gives up 244 yards per game through the air, so while they're good, they're not elite.

Edge: Arizona State

Utah Running Backs and Tight Ends vs Arizona State Linebabackers

Devontae Booker looks like he's ready to roll after last week's big game. Now he'll face arguably his toughest front to date in the attacking Sun Devils, who don't give up many yards up the middle. He's now averaging 133 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry to go along with a team leading 19 catches. His biggest value in this game will come in the passing game though as he helps pick up blitzers, and catches the ball out of the backfield. The Utah tight ends will be used to block a lot and help in protection with the amount of pressure ASU is going to bring.

The linebackers are coming, on the blitz, and often. Fiso Solamo has 50 tackles so far this year with a tremendous 10.5 of those for a loss. Antonio Longino has 31 tackles and 9.5 for loss with 2.5 sacks. Laui Moiakiola has notched 34 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss while DJ Calhoun has 2.5 sacks. These guys are going to be in the backfield a lot, but if Booker and company can get through the first wave, they can pickup chunk yardage, but expect some negative plays as the Sun Devils are giving up only 3.3 yards per carry.

Edge: Even

Utah Offensive Line vs Arizona State Defensive Line

The Utah offensive line is coming off of their most complete performance of the season against Cal, opening up lanes for Booker, and Sam Tevi looks to have really used the week off to work on his technique. They'll be taking on a tough ASU front that does a good job of confusing opposing offensive lines with their blitz schemes.

The Sun Devils will use a 3 man front with 6-6, 300 pounder Demetrious Cherry coming off of the end. He'll eat up multiple blockers. Tashon Smallwood anchors the middle and already has 23 tackles and 5 tackles for loss. Freshman Jospeh Wicker is a 6-2, 275 pounder at the other end spot. He has 3 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.

Edge: Even

Arizona State Quarterback and Wide Receivers vs Utah Secondary

Mike Bercovici is in the top tier of Pac 12 quarterbacks, coming in having thrown for 1600 yards and 14 touchdowns. He's completing 60% of his passes with 4 interceptions, has a cannon for an arm, and runs the read option quite well as an underrated runner. The Sun Devils have some solid playmakers at the wider receiver spot, led by converted running back DJ Foster. Foster is a dynamic kid that they can use in multiple ways. He leads the team with 29 catches for 267 yards and 3 touchdowns while pitching in 195 yards on 27 carries. Tim White has 20 catches for 46 yards per game and 5 touchdowns and Devin Lucien also has 20 grabs at 11 yards per catch and 1 TD. Gary Chambers has been there big play guy at 18 yards per catch and is a big kid at 6-4 and 215 pounds.

The Utah secondary is suddenly filled with a bunch of ball-hawks. Dominique Hatfield has 3 passes intercepted in only 3 games, Marcus Williams has 4, Justin Thomas has 2, and Cory Butler-Byrd has one of his own. That's ten picks out of the secondary in five games. Tremendous work. Now if they can just clean up some of the big plays that have hurt them they should be able to drop their opponent per game aveaging of 256 yards per game. Opponents are only completing 55% of their passes against the Utes though.

Edge: Arizona State (barely)

Arizona State Running Backs and Tight Ends vs Utah Linebackers

Arizona State running back Demario Richard is hobbled, and the most recent reports have him as highly questionable for Saturday night. He's averaging 88 yards per game and 5.2 yards a carry, so that would be a big blow to the Devils. If he can't go, Kalen Ballage will get the nod. He's a 6-3, 230 pound bruiser that is averaging 44 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry. ASU has one of the better tight ends in the country in Kody Kohl, who has 19 catches and 3 touchdowns so far this year.

Gionni Paul is having a Pac 12 player of the year season with 39 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble. Jared Norris is matchign Paul with his 39 tackles and has also forced a fumble. He's been solid in coverage this year as well. Jason Whittingham isn't playing as much with Utah going to their nickel package quite a bit, but has 11 tackles and a sack this season. Utah is holding opponents to 133 yards per game on the ground and 4.2 yards per carry.

Edge: Utah

Arizona State Offensive Line vs Utah Defensive Line

It's an experienced offensive line for the Sun Devils with 4 seniors and 1 junior. Left tackle Evan Goodman has improved as the season has gone along and left guard Christian Westerman is one of the better interior linemen in the conference. They're opening up holes for their backs to the tune of 179 yards per game, and while they have given up 19 sacks, that number is a bit skewed after Texas A&M dropped Bercovici 9 times in the season opener.

The Utah defensive line continues to be a strength, especially since the emergence of Kylie Fitts. He, Pita Taumoepenu, and Jason Fanaika have combined for sacks on the season, and it's only a matter of time bfvore Hunter Dimick gets going. The interior has been solid, lef by Seni Fauonuku. Filipo Mokofisi has tackles for loss, and while Lowell Lotulelei has struggled a bit, the potential there remains.

Edge: Utah

Special Teams

Death. Taxes. Elite Utah special teams. Andy Phillips has rounded into form and is now 8 for 11 on the season with a long of 44 yards. Tom Hackett is punting it like the Ray Guy Award winner he is with an average of 48.8 yards per punt, a long of 78, and 8 kicks downed inside the 20. Britain Covey is averaging 16.9 yards per punt return with a touchdown and Cory Butler-Byrd is at a ridiculous 44.3 yards with a TD on kickoff returns.

The Sun Devils have had moderate succes in the return game with Gump Hayes averaging 6.8 yards per punt return and Tim Hayes averaging 28.5 yards per kick return. Zane Gonzalez is one of the better kickers in the conference, but has struggled a bit on longer kicks, going 0 for 3 on kicks over 40 yards. Punter Matt Haack is averaging 43.2 yards per punt.

Edge: Utah


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