Utah’s Pac-12 woes continued in a loss against UCLA last week and this week won’t be any easier against the juggernaut that is number five ranked Stanford. The Utes hung tough with UCLA, but were doomed by six interceptions from Travis Wilson in a 34-27 loss. Stanford was seriously tested last week at home against Washington, but survived for a nailbiting 31-28 victory. Can Utah get the Pac-12 monkey off their back and get potentially the biggest win in the history of Rice-Eccles stadium? Or will Stanford continue to roll on their quest to Oregon a few weeks down the road to clinch the north division? Here’s a position-by-position look at this week’s matchup and which team will have the edge heading into Saturday’s game:
Travis Wilson again showed flashes of athletic ability and potential for the future, but all the positives were overshadowed by his propensity to turn the ball over in critical situations. There’s an argument to be made that a few of Wilson’s picks could be attributed to his receivers, but it boils down to giving the ball away six times in the crunch time of the second half, including three drive killing picks out of five possessions in the third quarter. Overall, Wilson has eight interceptions in the second half of Utah’s games against Pac-12 opponents, with nine total for the season. However, Stanford also gave up 350 passing yards to Washington quarterback Keith Price, a glimmer of hope for Wilson if he can take care of the football.
Junior quarterback Kevin Hogan isn’t spectacular for Stanford, but he’s been efficient when it matters. Hogan has 11 touchdowns and four interceptions this season, is completing nearly 63 percent of his passes and is averaging 168 yards through the air per game. He struggled against Washington for only 100 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception, but Stanford doesn’t need him to be spectacular to win games with their stifling defense and solid running game. However, if the Utes can score early on Stanford and force Hogan into a shootout, he could struggle. He hasn’t been forced to attempt more than 27 passes in a game all season.
The Utes have a few solid options in the running game, something that Kyle Whittingham doesn’t seem to mind heading into the Stanford game. Bubba Poole, Kelvin York and Lucky Radley all had five or more carries against UCLA combining for 25 carries and 102 yards. Overall, Poole is the leader in the clubhouse, getting 63 carries this year for 330 yards and a touchdown. Radley and York have combined for 55 carries, 267 yards and three touchdowns. Wilson continues to lead the team in rushing touchdowns with five, more than all of his running backs combined, a somewhat alarming stat this far into the season.
Stanford senior Tyler Gaffney is the man for the Cardinal, carrying the bulk of the work with 92 carries, 462 yards and six touchdowns. He was instrumental in the win against Washington, helping Stanford control the ball with 20 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown. Overall, Gaffney has 226 yards rushing and three touchdowns against Pac-12 opponents this season. Senior Anthony Wilkerson provides a change of pace for Gaffney and has 214 yards and a touchdown of his own.
Dres Anderson continues to produce for the Utes and is underrated from a national and conference standpoint. He is fifth in the Pac-12 in receiving yards and 12th in receptions, totalling 510 yards and four touchdowns this season. Anderson is also staggeringly efficient with his reception opportunities with 21 yards per catch and 102 receiving yards per game. Most importantly, he’s bringing his "A" game to the Utes’ conference contests, with 207 yards and two touchdowns against Oregon State and UCLA. Sean Fitzgerald and Anthony Denham continue to be solid second and third options, but both need to be more consistent. The loss of tight end Jake Murphy hurts as his underwhelming stats don’t reflect his role as a consistent safety blanket for Wilson.Next Page >
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