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Analysis: Utah-Arizona State Position Preview

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The Sun Devils have a litany of options in the passing game and use running backs, tight end Chris Coyle and wide receivers to exploit match ups all over the field. Jaelen Strong is the guy to watch for ASU. The juco transfer has become one of Kelly’s favorite targets, catching 49 passes for 720 yards and five touchdowns. Sophomore runningback DJ Foster has evolved into more of a passing threat this year and is second on the team with 467 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Grice is prolific out of the backfield and Kelly also favors tight end Chris Coyle often in the passing game.

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Edge: ASU

Offensive line

Utah’s struggles have also been amplified by increased pressure given up by the offensive line. The left side has been particularly troublesome and Utah has surrendered nine sacks in the last two weeks, six to USC. The increase can be attributed to Adam Schulz playing in the more mobile Wilson’s place, but that’s still an alarming number. The Utes rank fifth in the Pac-12 for sacks surrendered with 17.

Arizona State’s offensive line has been average at best this season, allowing too much pressure on Kelly in games against tougher opponents. Kelly was sacked six times against Notre Dame, three times against Stanford and three times against Wisconsin earlier in the season. Over the last three weeks, ASU has surrendered six sacks. The Sun Devils rank eighth in the Pac-12 with 19 sacks given up, a statistic the Utes will have to exploit if they hope to beat ASU.

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Edge: Even

Defensive line/linebackers

Utah continues to keep pace with the best teams in the conference in regard to quarterback pressure and sacks, something the Utes will need a lot of on Saturday. The Utes are tied for second in the conference with 27 total sacks and have seven sacks over the last two weeks. Trevor Reilly continues to put up Pac-12 defensive player of the year numbers with 69 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. The Utes have also taken up residence in the opposing team’s backfield with 53 tackles for loss.

Arizona State ranks sixth in the conference with only 20 sacks, but the Sun Devils have the talent to harrass opposing quarterbacks relentlessly every week. Reigning Pac-12 defensive player of the year Will Sutton has slowed a bit this season after gaining weight to become more of a nose tackle, but the junior still has two sacks this season, 24 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss. Linebacker Carl Bradford is the player to watch. Bradford has 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks this season.

Edge: Even

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