The Arizona State Sun Devils are looking to improve to 7-2 on the season against Utah on Saturday and the House of Sparky staff is cautiously optimistic that Todd Graham's squad can get the job done.
Kerry Crowley: Arizona State 31, Utah 24
Earlier this week, I was dead-set on picking Utah to upset the Sun Devils. I think Utah has all the capabilities of taking down Arizona State and from a personnel standpoint, the Utes match up well with the Sun Devils. Rice-Eccles Stadium is also a much tougher atmosphere than Martin Stadium in Pullman, and Utah has shown it can compete with anyone in the Pac-12 at home.
Since assuming the lead in the Pac-12 South, the Sun Devils haven't really faced a test to their supremacy. I see Utah giving Arizona State everything it can handle, especially because the Utes are hungry and rested coming off of a bye week. I know Dennis Erickson is going to pour everything he has into coming up with a game plan to take advantage of the defenders he recruited at Arizona State. If anyone knows how to beat the Sun Devils, it should be Erickson and he's got an offense that's desperately looking to break out of its shell.
Still, there's no reason to believe that Arizona State should lose this game based on its recent performance. The Sun Devils have looked unstoppable on offense, and the rushing defense has morphed into one of the nation's top units of late. Great teams can take a punch and keep moving forward, and that's what I expect Arizona State to do this week.
Bold Prediction: Utah scores a defensive touchdown.
Cody Ulm: Arizona State: 45, Utah 37
Allow me to make myself clear: I'm just afraid of this one as I am the UCLA game. That being the case, I think this Arizona State team is too locked in to lose.
Travis Wilson will be sharper that he's shown in past weeks thanks to the time off. But I still can't see him matching Taylor Kelly and Co. blow for blow. As Kerry pointed out, Erickson will be bringing his A-game. Ultimately though, Wilson plays too loose and sloppy to make up for inevitable amounts of three-and-outs that Arizona State's defense will force.
My X-factor in this one is if Kelly will be able to continue the magic with his legs. The Utes specialize in overpowering teams, much like Stanford and Notre Dame. But if Kelly is able to keep the defense guessing, Utah won't be manhandling anyone. And as you've all surely noticed, Arizona State's offense is on a level of its own when Kelly is busting off runs of 10 and 15 yards on a regular basis. In a perfect world, Mike Norvell will get the read-option going early to get Kelly into a nice rhythm. If not, we could have some ugly turnovers in the early going and coming back on the road has never been Arizona State's forte.
Bold Prediction: Arizona State has four rushing touchdowns.
Nick Krueger: Arizona State 42, Utah 28
It's safe to say my confidence in this team is back to pre-Notre Dame loss levels, but that's not to say Arizona State won't suffer another massive let down. This game doesn't really scare me, there are only so many chances you can have to upset teams and Todd Graham isn't the type of coach to let that happen. Almost every player of note had a solid game against Washington State but not good enough to become cocky. Marion Grice should be a on a mission to right the ship with his scoring but it will be tough for Arizona State to run the ball if Utah and Trevor Reilly blitz consistently.
This game will rely heavily on Taylor Kelly's arm to get the job done as I think the Sun Devils may have their weakest rushing game of the season both in terms of yards and touchdowns. Jaelen Strong needs to find his groove again and Rick Smith needs to pick up right where he left off against Washington State in order for the Sun Devils to have success. I don't see the Steve Patterson news having any issue at all but if you're a fan of Arizona State, writing off the Utes would be a big mistake.
Bold prediction: ASU has two wide receivers over 100 yards a piece and Taylor Kelly throws for over 350 yards.
Ben Haber: Arizona State: 52, Utah 24
Let me preface the following with: ASU should and will handle Utah with ease.
Home-field advantage means something, but talent and personnel means more. I know Utah beat Stanford at Rice-Eccles Stadium, but that win appears to be slightly lucky after their recent losses to pedestrian opponents in USC and University of Arizona. For the ASU-Utah matchup, Todd Graham and company clearly prevail at almost every position. Taylor Kelly and Mike Norvell have guided the Sun Devil attack to three straight 50-plus performances, and I think it will extend to four after Saturday. Even if ASU somehow gets held to the mid 30's, which is very improbable, that should be plenty.
The Utes have only scored 27 points in their last two games combined. Neither of those foes were are as strong as ASU. Travis Wilson's turnover tendencies are going to be the story of the game. Paul Randolph will dial up the heavy blitzes, forcing Wilson into uncomfortable positions. The turnover battle usually decides the outcome and I expect ASU to win the category. In addition, once Kelly and the offense establish an early advantage, it will force Utah to be completely one-dimensional. By the end of regulation, the Sun Devils are going to turn some of the haters into believers.
Bold Prediction: Richard Smith leads the team in receiving yards.