Game Preview: ASU football looks to extend to 21 all-time wins against Utah

The Sun Devils are 8-2 in their last 10 meetings against Utah, but the last two games have been losses

A win against the former No. 5 Washington Huskies (6-1, 3-1) has put ASU football in the national spotlight. The only question is: Will the Sun Devils (3-3, 2-1) be able to prove last week’s victory was more than just a fluke in their upcoming game against the Utah Utes (4-2, 1-2)?

Party in Salt Lake

The Utes bring one of the more interesting dynamics to the Pac-12. With a quarterback situation still up in the air due to injury, the Sun Devils are forced to prepare without 100 percent certainty on who Utah’s starting gunslinger will be.

Nonetheless, neither quarterback option is much of a scare. However, the guys lining up outside the numbers and in the backfield do pose a threat.

“Obviously, they got a lot of talent on offense," ASU head coach Todd Graham said. "They got really good receivers — I think they’re better there than they were last year at receiver. They got three really talented backs that are very diverse in their skill set."

Those “really good” receivers would be senior Darren Carrington II and sophomore Siaosi Wilson. 

Carrington II has the second most receiving yards in the conference (593), while Wilson’s yards per reception (18) is also good enough for second in the Pac-12. 

Not to mention, one of those “really talented” tailbacks is sophomore Zack Moss

He may not have the numbers to frighten you, but when you meet him in the hole and he cuts sharper than your Betty Crocker knife, you will definitely pay attention.

Business as usual 

After allowing 12 sacks in the first two games, it seemed improbable redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins would survive a whole season scrambling to avoid pressure. 

Even with the rough start, the offensive line has greatly improved, giving up just four sacks the last two games. 

Four sacks is not perfect, but ASU will have to stay strong up front considering Utah is 4-0 in games where they sacked the quarterback this season. 

In last year’s loss to the Utes, the Sun Devils gave up a mind-boggling 11 sacks, but redshirt sophomore offensive guard Steven Miller only takes so much from a game that happened a year ago.

“We look at it as a learning moment, but we’re not the same team as we were last year, so we don’t really think about that too much,” Miller said. “We’re gonna focus on what they’ve done this year, who they are this year, who we are this year and how we’re gonna exploit them and handle our business up front.”

By no means is the Utah defensive front as dominant of a pass rushing group as they were in 2016, but when they get to the quarterback they force plenty of turnovers. When the Utes intercept opposing quarterbacks they are 4-0 this season. 


It’s time to get Harry 

During ASU games this season, there are few names that pop up regularly, but one is in play the entire game — N’Keal Harry.

The sophomore wideout is on pace for 86 receptions, 1,110 yards and six touchdowns. If he were to reach 86 receptions he would be one shy of tying the ASU single-season reception record (87).

Not to mention, he would only be the fourth to reach 80 in the school's history.

The Sun Devils will face a group of Utah defensive backs who are known for delivering some of the hardest hits in the Pac-12.

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Frank Darby frankly does not care who is coming to lay a shoulder into him.

“All I can say is if they gonna bring it, we gonna bring it too,” Darby said. “All our receivers, we got heart, we tough ... so if somebody gonna come down and hit us, we gonna come down and hit you too.” 

Despite being a punishing secondary, the group has a couple cornerbacks who lack ideal size. For example, some of Utah’s contributing defensive backs feature players at 5-foot-9-inches and 5-foot-10-inches.

With ASU having relatively large receivers, the Sun Devils should heavily utilize Harry’s ability to line up anywhere on the field to create mismatches. 

Nonetheless, ASU has a deep group of pass catchers who can take advantage of the Utes, or in the words of Darby:

“Everybody gonna get it.”

Predictions

The predictions below come from The State Press football reporters: Anthony Totri, Mark Harris and Joe Jacquez. The number next to the reporter is their record in predicting the winner each week.

Anthony Totri (2-4): Utah beats ASU 28-27.

Mark Harris (3-3): Utah beats ASU 24-21.

Joe Jacquez (3-3): Utah beats ASU 27-17.


Reach the reporter at atotri@asu.edu or follow @Anthony_Totri on Twitter.   

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