The Utes moved up to No. 13 in the latest AP Polls ahead of their date versus No. 17-ranked Arizona State. Utah and Arizona State enter the weekend with identical records (5-1, 2-1 PAC 12) and are among four football teams currently tied for first place in the PAC 12 South. Arizona State has won each of the last two matchups in this series by a combined 38 points, but the Utes will be out for revenge in this game, especially quarterback Tyler Huntley. The junior had his season ended in last November’s game against the Sun Devils after he suffered a broken collarbone. To make matters worse, Sun Devils freshman quarterback got away from the Utes in recruiting, which should make this rivalry even more intense this time around. Can the Utes keep their momentum going in a top-25 showdown versus the Sun Devils on Saturday?
Arizona State has to be impressed with freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels, who is coming off the best game of his college career last week. The true freshman threw for a career-high 363 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers against Washington State, while adding a 17-yard rushing touchdown with 34 seconds left to complete a 38-34 comeback win over the Cougars. Senior wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk caught seven passes for 196 yards and three scores, while the Sun Devils’ defense came up with some timely fourth quarter stops to help Arizona State improve to 2-1 in conference play. Perhaps most importantly for the Sun Devils, running back Eno Benjamin exploded for a season-high 137 yards and a score on 19 carries, while averaging a healthy 7.2 yards per carry in the win. The preseason All-American got off to a slow start, rushing for just 190 total yards on just 3.5 yards per carry through the first three games of the season.
The Utes are fresh off a resounding 52-7 blowout victory on the road versus Oregon State last week. Zach Moss rushed for 121 yards and two scores, including a 91-yard scamper in the first quarter to propel Utah to victory. It was another dominant performance by the Utes, who totaled 503 yards of total offense and held the Beavers to just 169 total yards. Oregon State mustered just 48 yards on the ground and converted just 2 of their 13 third downs versus the Utes’ defense. Utah has yet to face a ranked opponent this season, but they will play three of their next four games at home, which should give them a good chance to reach nine or 10 wins. ESPN’s Football Power Index favors the Utes heading into Saturday’s matchup. Utah is given an 82.6-percent chance of beating the Sun Devils and are the current favorites to run away with the PAC 12 South division title. Among the teams tied for the South lead, the FPI now projects 6.8 conference wins for Utah, 6.1 wins for USC, 4.8 wins for ASU and 3.8 wins for Arizona.
Daniels earns PAC 12 Freshman of the Week honorsDaniels earned his third PAC-12 Freshman of the Week award honors for his performance against Washington State. Head coach Herm Edwards expressed his confidence in Daniels after the game, telling reporters, “He gets it. And I trust the guy. I just trust him.” Thanks to Daniels, the Sun Devils have experienced some good fortune in close games this season. However, close games have become the norm for Arizona State, especially since Edwards took over at the beginning of 2018. In 19 games under Edwards, the Sun Devils have played 13 games decided by a touchdown or less, going 7-6 in those contests, which is tied for first nationally with Texas. Eight of those 13 contests have been decided by four points or fewer and ASU is an impressive 6-2 in those games. This week, the Sun Devils enter their game against PAC 12 South-favorite Utah as 13.5-point underdogs. Arizona State was picked to finish third in the division this year, but they’ve exceeded expectations and will have a chance to play in the PAC 12 Championship Game if they can execute this weekend.
Jayden Daniels rushes for the touchdown. 38-34 ASU 34 seconds left in the game. pic.twitter.com/V0vFnaZCV2— DevilsDigest.com (@DevilsDigest) October 12, 2019
On defense, the Sun Devils enter allowing only 17.7 points and 354.5 yards of total offense per game. They have also been stout against the run, surrendering just 91.7 yards per game on the ground so far this year.
Edwards knows that the Utes will be a challenge for the Sun Devils.
"These guys (Utah) are a very good football team,” Edwards said at his weekly press conference. “I think they were picked to win the conference and I can see why. This is going to be tough going there and being on the road.”
“Utah is very well coached,” Edwards continued. “They have veteran players on this team when you look at it. Similar to last year, they play complimentary football and run the ball very well.”
Utes battling for PAC 12 South titleFor Utah, this matchup has big implications in the PAC 12 South race. If the season ended today, the Utes wouldn’t play in the Pac-12 championship game. As of this writing, USC would represent the South, thanks to a 30-23 win over Utah last month in Los Angeles.
However, Utah comes into this matchup as nearly two-touchdown favorites at home versus a better-than-expected Arizona State team that has won each of the last two meetings in this series. The Utes know all about freshman gunslinger Jayden Daniels, who visited the Utes’ campus one year ago this weekend to observe a convincing mid-October win over USC. Daniels, who was the Utes’ preferred quarterback in the 2019 recruiting class, then announced his commitment two Arizona State just two weeks later and the Utes’ never ended up finding another quarterback in the class. Had Daniels committed to Utah, he would have likely been forced to redshirt and sit a year behind current starter Tyler Huntley, who has been one of the best signal callers in the country this season.
Huntley has bounced back from his season-ending injury versus ASU last year to throw for 1,393 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions, while completing a healthy 75.6 percent of his passes (second in FBS). He’s also been a threat with his legs, adding three rushing scores to help lead Utah to an impressive 5-1 start. Huntley has also enjoyed the benefit of revived Utes’ run game, which is averaging 228.8 yards per game this season. Zach Moss leads the team in rushing with 514 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
However, make no mistake about it -- as potent as Utah has been offensively in 2019, this Utes’ team makes its living on the defensive side of the ball. The defense has surrendered only 13.2 points per game (tied for eighth in FBS) and 271.5 yards of total offense per contest (10th in FBS), including just 52.8 yards per game on the ground (second in FBS).
- Sun Devils are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games on fieldturf.
- Sun Devils are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing less than 100 yards rushing in their previous game.
- Sun Devils are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games after accumulating more than 280 yards passing in their previous game.
- Utes are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 home games.
- Utes are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games after accumulating more than 450 total yards in their previous game.
- Utes are 1-6 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.