A week after upsetting 5th-ranked Washington, the Arizona State Sun Devils look to ride the momentum into Salt Lake City for their matchup with Utah. The Utes will play host from Rice-Eccles Stadium at 3:30 EST, and the game can be found on FS1.
In their surprise win, the Sun Devils showed their first signs of a capable defense. It had been over a year since the last time they’d held a team under 30 points. But they somehow figured it out, with a pass-rush that revolves around four defenders with three sacks or more this season.
They had a plan that Jake Browning and the Huskies were not prepared for, and they slept on the Sun Devils. Manny Wilkins (70.7% vs. Washington) made the tough plays when he needed to in a gutsy performance.
Utah won’t be underestimating this group, and shouldn’t be taken too lightly themselves. They’ve found a reliable starting QB in sophomore Tyler Huntley, and he looks to be healthy after some previous shoulder issues.
The Utes are improving against the pass, even if it is a process from being ranked 101st against it last season. They’ve caused a fair amount (nine INTs) of havoc with their secondary, and have been predominantly stout against the run again this season.
They’ll come in as 9-point favorites in this PAC-12 contest.
Arizona State had a huge win last week, catching the Huskies off-guard and hanging on late for the huge upset. There seems to be this occasional magic around Sun Devil Stadium, and the players fed off that in one of the most emotionally satisfying wins they could’ve had.
Now comes the letdown week. The week they go on the road away from where all the magic happened, to a smaller stadium in a game that won’t garner as much attention. But within all of this, they have to play a Utah team that lost to USC by a single point and is a sneaky team in the Pac-12. This is the hangover that will spell the downfall of the Sun Devils.
It’s much easier to see their win over Washington as an anomaly, where one team didn’t show up. But Arizona State did game plan well and should be rewarded for it. But sustained success has been hard for them to come by defensively. They should more than likely go back to giving up 30-plus points a game like they had in nine of their 12 games last year and their first five this year.
You never know what weakness will be exposed on a weekly basis when it comes to their defense. They’ve been run on for 328 yards in one game, and passed on for 543 in another. Just because they put it all together for one game over the past dozen doesn’t mean they’ll find the right balance and intensity in this one.
No one’s taking them for granted this week, and Utah has been consistent in all areas. You know you’re going to get a run game that’s reliable in gaining crucial yardage, even if it’s not going to do so in huge chunks. They have a passing game that will instantly improve with the return of Huntley, and a front seven that fills the running lanes nicely.
And trusting Wilkins’ line is a roll of the dice. They’ve allowed the fourth-most sacks per-game in the country, and haven’t given much support to a fledging run game. Asking Wilkins and his contingent of receivers to do all the work is too much to ask.
In the end, this will be the worst kind of game for Arizona State to play coming off such a rousing victory. They will be lulled to sleep and then punched in the mouth by Utah’s strategy, giving the Utes a two touchdown-plus advantage when the clock runs out.