After a dramatic season-opening loss in Florida, Utah has responded well by stomping down on some much worse competition. Arizona State, on the other hand, has seemingly gotten worse results each week, from wrecking an FCS team, to playing respectably close in Stillwater with a really good Oklahoma State team, to losing at home to MAC competition. Let’s see the odds and make some picks for this Saturday showdown in Tempe, as both teams look to get their PAC-12 season off to a strong start.
Utah Vs. Arizona State Odds
Utah is currently favored by 15.5, which is quite a few points to lay on a team going on the road, and playing in-conference for the first time all year. The points total is set at 54, which is relatively low for a PAC-12 after dark matchup, even with the solid Utes defense on the field.
Utah Vs. Arizona State Prediction & Pick
Utah’s Playoff hopes might have been dashed after a crusher of a loss to Florida, but they still have a lot to play for as they have a legitimate shot to run the PAC-12 table. Despite the loss to Florida, the Utes have an offense and defense that each rank somewhere from the top 15 to top 25 in both yardage and scoring on each side of the ball. The offense has been led by Cameron Rising, who was named to the PAC-12 preseason second team. Rising is off to a fairly efficient, if unexplosive start and is PFF’s 19th-ranked QB among FBS passers with at least 90 dropbacks. Preseason first-team all-conference RB Tavion Thomas has also been solid, scoring 4 touchdowns so far.
On the ASU side of things, their offense is sitting around #90 in both yardage and scoring, while they’re in the mid-50s in both figures on defense. EPA/play is relatively consistent with these numbers for both teams, placing Utah at 22nd in the country and the Sun Devils all the way down at 83. Puzzlingly enough, ASU has some standout performers on offense, such as Wyoming transfer Running Back Xazavian Valladay, who is averaging over 100 yards and a touchdown per game thus far, and wideout Elijah Badger who by far leads the squad with 17 catches and 217 yards.
One thing to note is that both PFF grading and EPA/play both have the Utah defense ranked lower than the yardage and scoring stats would suggest; neither metric has the Utes inside ranked better than 65 as they work hard to recover from the losses of Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell. With some negative regression for that unit, as well as some of the opposite the ASU offense, led by Florida transfer QB Emory Jones who is in desperate need of a breakout game, these two teams can race by the total of 53.5 points. That being said, the Utah offense will be enough to keep them well out of the Sun Devils’ reach, and cover the spread.
Utah vs Arizona State Key Matchups
Can the Utah secondary hang with ASU’s perimeter weapons? How does this ASU secondary stack up against a Utah offense with great chemistry? Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Utah vs Arizona State below.
ASU Passing Unit vs. Utah Pass Defense
The Utes have struggled mightily thus far in getting to the Quarterback; PFF has their pass rush grade hardly within the top hundred, a fairly startling trend for a team that has played only one halfway competitive team so far. Equally concerning is that as a unit, the Utah defense only has 4 total sacks in 3 games, even with teams generally being behind and dropping back a lot, and has only even hit the quarterback 6 additional times.
Meanwhile, Arizona State has been all sorts of mediocre in the passing game. Emory Jones has been pretty subpar, not turning the ball over, but also only putting up 185 yards per game, and 2 touchdowns through the air. Whether or not you include rushing output, PFF sees him as somewhere in the low-60s amongst FBS QBs. His talent suggests that he could be doing a lot more, and if Utah isn’t able to generate pressure, he just might do it this week.
Utah Passing Unit vs. ASU Pass Defense
Last year’s ASU defense was really strong, leading the conference in total and scoring defense. They did this largely through the strength of a secondary that picked off 16 passes, but that group has lost 3 the 4 players who intercepted multiple throws a year ago. Needless to say, it hasn’t quite been the same. It’s actually possible that they’ve been better at rushing the QB- although they only have 2 sacks so far, PFF has their pass rush grade in the top 25 thus far.
They’ll be facing off against a star-studded Utah o-line that features first- and second-team preseason All Pac-12 selections, Braeden Daniels and Sataoa Laumea. The passing skill group for Utah of course centers around Rising, but also features another preseason all-conference first-teamer in Tight End Brant Kuithe, who has played very well so far, racking up 191 yards and 3 touchdowns already. The team’s second leading receiver this year is also a Tight End, Dalton Kincaid, and the most productive wideout for Utah has been Devaughn Vele, who has not caught a ton of passes but has flashed big-play ability. If Arizona State wants to compete in this game, it will be vital for their veteran linebacking duo of Kyle Soelle and Merlin Robinson, the heart and soul of their defense, to limit the tight ends’ production.