The Notebook: ASU Sun Devils

 

The University of Utah’s week 9 matchup sees them facing off against the Arizona State University Sun Devils, in game two of a road trip that the Utes will look to end as strong as they started it.

In Utah’s last game, they destroyed the Bruins of UCLA on the road, winning by 30+ points for the second time in their now four-game winning streak. The Utes were systematic in their dismantling of head coach Chip Kelly’s pass-first offense, and stuffed the run on their way to remaining the No. 1 run defense in the country. Zack Moss ran wild yet again, and had a career night against the Bruins. The Utes, with all of their fortunes, will still need that momentum heading into this week’s matchup.

The ASU Sun Devils (4-3, 2-3 Pac-12) are also finding themselves in good fortunes heading into the weekend matchup. Their early upset of No. 15 Michigan State gave an early spark to a sputtering team under a new coach, and the team now finds themselves right in the middle of a race for the Pac-12 South. Like last week, nobody thought that this matchup would have implications for a Pac-12 South Champion, but this is a phenomenon that is becoming the case for all of Utah’s remaining four games.

The road to the Pac-12 Championship game is simple for the Utes — win, and they’re in. For the Sun Devils, they’ll need some help, but it is feasible for the Sun Devils to run the table and see a loss from Arizona or USC.

This game will be only one stop on a chaotic ride to the end of the season, and for both the Utes and Sun Devils, the only thing they can do is keep winning. Unfortunately, one of these teams will leave with questionable hopes to finish atop the South.

For the Sun Devils, the challenge in winning this game is stopping the Utah run game and attacking the Utah defense through the air. The Utah secondary has been ironclad, but they have been notorious to give up the occasional down-field bomb, and the Sun Devils could take advantage of that to put up points. If they can strike early and often, that’s their best chance to upset in this one.

In my pre-season prediction, I had Utah cleaning up and coming home with another win. I’ll stick with my original call, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sun Devils keep it close. And who knows, maybe Utah won’t put up 40 points this time. But who am I kidding?

z.janis@dailyutahchronicle.com

@zachjanis

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