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The No. 17 Arizona State Sun Devils will travel to Salt Lake City this weekend to take on the 14th-ranked Utah Utes in a Pac-12 South showdown that could have postseason implications. The Sun Devils and Utes are currently in a three-way tie atop the South with Arizona and USC and looking for separation as the season enters its home stretch. For the Sun Devils, who have both USC and Arizona (both at home) remaining on the schedule, a win on Saturday puts them in control of their own destiny on the road to the Pac-12 Championship. The Utes, who have already fallen to USC, need a win on Saturday to stay in contention for a major bowl. Let’s take a deeper look at this matchup between familiar foes and see where we can find an edge.
Arizona State Sun Devils @ Utah Utes
Saturday, October 19th, 2019 – 6:00 pm EST
Utah -13.5, O/U 48.5 (via PointsBet)
The Sun Devils will put their perfect road record to the test on Saturday, a week after a shootout home win over Washington State in a rare early-October daytime slot. Closing as nearly three-point underdogs, the Sun Devils played mostly from behind and once again needed a last-minute drive from freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels to pull off the win. Since starting the season as the first true freshman at the helm in Arizona State history, Daniels has seemingly improved each week, throwing for 363 yards, a completion percentage of 72.2, and three touchdowns in the win against Wazzou. More impressive than his 1,1610 yards and 63.1% completion percentage has been his ball security, throwing just one interception on the season. Daniels has undoubtedly gotten a boost from junior running back Eno Benjamin, who has 714 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns on the season. Arizona State’s defense has also played efficiently, especially against the run, where they are allowing just 91.7 yards per game and 2.97 per attempt.
While the Sun Devil’s defense is strong and improving each week, the Ute’s defensive unit is absolutely nasty and one of the most experienced in college football. They come into Saturday’s contest allowing just 52.8 rushing yards per game (second in FBS) and just 13.2 points per game. Utah also relies heavily on their run game and senior running back Zack Moss, who saw his first action last week at Oregon State since a shoulder injury in Week 4 sidelined him. In the Ute’s 52-7 route of the Beavers, Moss tallied 121 yards on the ground and two touchdowns in just five attempts. Senior quarterback Tyler Huntley has again been solid for the Utes, posting a 75.6% completion percentage with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions through his first six games of the season.
In the Ute’s visit to Tempe last season, Huntley was lost for the year with a broken collarbone on the way to the Devils winning 38-20 as eight-point underdogs, a fact that will certainly be on the mind of this senior-led team. In the contests between their mutual opponent, Washington State (both at home), they both put up exactly 38 points, while the Sun Devils gave up 21 more points.
Having watched nearly every snap of the Herm Edwards era in Tempe, his team falls into two traps almost every game which I think provides an edge in this one. First and foremost, they play to their opponent’s game on both sides of the ball. Against Michigan State, they slowed the game down and were content with slugging it out, and last week against Wazzou they were more than willing to get into a shootout with the Cougar’s high-powered offensive attack. They also start slow, and when they do turn on the offense, it’s always in the second half. Both of these factors have me leaning heavily into what I see as an inflated first-half total in Salt Lake City.