Two offensive linemen on the following list shows just how important its role is Saturday. As Saturday inches closer, take a look at the players who's presence on the field will matter the most.
McCray took over in replace of Christian Westerman when he went down Saturday against Washington and all signs point to McCray getting another chance against the Utes Saturday. While Lowe Loutulelei and Filipo Mokofisi don't offer too much experience on the Utes interior defensive line as a freshman and redshirt freshman respectively, blitzes up the middle from junior Jared Norris could wreak havoc on the Sun Devils. The good news for the maroon and gold is that the Ute linebackers only have four sacks this season, but offensive line blocking is more complicated than many believe and a missed assignment by McCray could cost Arizona State dearly. McCray has some experience in the program as a redshirt sophomore and the coaches seem confident in his abilities, what's in question is whether or not he can put together a full game on the field.
Clay has been one of the best kickoff and punt returners in the country this season for the Utes, even better than Ty Montgomery of Stanford. He has averaged 29.4 yards on eight kick returns and has a kickoff return for a touchdown as well. He's even more explosive fielding punts, averaging 22.5 yards on 13 returns with three touchdowns. The Sun Devils have been much improved in holding their lanes and squeezing on punt returns, which has also been aided by marked improvement from punter Matt Haack. Montgomery faltered against Arizona State and the maroon and gold did well to slow down the special teams of the Cardinal. The Utes abilities are even better and probably the biggest test for the Sun Devils special teams so far this season.
Senior right defensive end Nate Orchard is undeniably one of the best defensive linemen in the Pac-12 along with Hau'oli Kikaha of Washington. Kikaha gave Jamil Douglas fits last weekend, its redshirt senior Tyler Sulka's turn to take on Orchard against Utah. Orchard is third on the team with 45 tackles and has 11 sacks for the Utes. The offensive line has to do better against the Utes and it starts with Sulka's ability to hold Orchard at bay.
Smith missed the game against Washington with an unknown injury, but the Sun Devils sophomore wide receiver seems to show up in big situations with a 73-yard touchdown catch against USC a few weeks ago. A senior-laden Utah defense which includes Eric Rowe and Brian Blechen in the secondary will be preoccupied trying to shut down Jaelen Strong. Smith doesn't need to have the game of his life, but if he can draw some attention to himself and away from Strong early in the game, it will open up the field for Taylor Kelly. Although Washington corner Marcus Peters is one of the best in the country, Smith's vacancy allowed the Huskies to keep the field tight against the Sun Devils with an inability to look deep. Smith's presence will be welcomed back Saturday and could play a large role in whether or not Arizona State can pull out the victory.