Ever since Utah’s 2013 football schedule came out, the Utes eyed their last four games as one of the program’s more challenging stretches.
It doesn’t look any easier now that it is here.
Utah’s final four
Saturday » Arizona State, 2 p.m., Pac-12 Network
Nov. 16 » at Oregon, TBD
Nov. 23 » at Washington State, TBD
Nov. 30 » Colorado, TBD
If the Utes are to achieve their goal of bowl eligibility, they must win two of their last four contests. While not impossible, it won’t be an easy thing to do with a schedule that features two games against ranked teams (Arizona State, Oregon) and a road trip to Pullman, Wash., where weather can play a sizeable role in a game’s outcome.
The most winnable game of all looks to be the home finale against Colorado, but the Utes have learned the hard way that even the most winnable-looking games on paper can have surprising outcomes.
Luckily, the Utes feel they are up for the challenge after a much-needed bye week. The extra few days not only let players heal injuries, but get in some extra work for Saturday’s game against the No. 23 ASU Sun Devils.
The Utes stunned the Pac-12 once with their win over Stanford and they believe they can pull off a similar upset Saturday. The Utes haven’t beaten the Sun Devils since 1976, but a 9-game losing streak isn’t dampening the Utes’ enthusiasm.
"This game is huge," Utah quarterback Travis Wilson said. "We know we need at least two more wins for a bowl game and if we can get one this Saturday, that would be a huge stepping stone."
It goes without saying the Utes must play better than they have the last two weeks to score an upset.
ASU has the nation’s 10th-ranked offense as it averages 515.1 yards per game and the nation’s 17th-ranked defense that gives up just 343.4 yards per game, prompting coach Kyle Whittingham to call the Sun Devils a complete team and compare them to Oregon.
"There really is no weakness," he said. "They’ve got a lot of things going for them and they are playing really well right now."
The Utes slid into their bye week with two losses in games they believe they should have won, if not for some turnovers.
Whittingham noted the Utes have had 15 turnovers in four Pac-12 games, a statistic that must improve if the Utes are to finish at .500 or above.
"This league is too good to turn the ball over at that rate," he said. "We need to protect the ball and move the chains like we did against Stanford. If we do that, we have a good chance."
To that end, quarterback Travis Wilson may have benefited from the bye week the most as he declared his throwing hand virtually 100 percent healthy.
"It was a good bye week," he said. "I got to go home, see the family and rest a little bit. It came at a crucial time."
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