For an inside look at the Top-17 matchup in Salt Lake City between the Arizona State Sun Devils and Utah Utes, we asked AJ Woods of Block U a few questions.
Brady Vernon: How different do you think the contest between these two teams last year would have been if Tyler Huntley didn’t get injured?
AW: I don’t know that it would have made much of a difference. Huntley is on a different level this year, and ASU was just simply the better team. However if the same happens this year, I can see Huntley’s absence being a difference maker.
BV: The sample size was small, but how did Zach Moss look in his return from injury?
AW: Oregon State’s run defense isn’t anything special, but Zack looked exactly how you’d expect Zack to look. Breaking off for a 91 TD is obviously special regardless of who you’re playing.
BV: Starting from when Utah joined the Pac-12, where would you rank this defense compared to other years?
AW: Utah has a history of stout defenses. That’s Whittingham’s bread and butter, so it’s hard to say if this is THE best, but they’re undoubtedly a special unit. Devin Lloyd was a bit of a question mark at linebacker, considering we were counting on former Penn State grad transfer Manny Bowen, but along with Francis Bernard, our linebackers are just as good as last year, and Leki Fotu has been an absolute beat up front.
BV: There’s an unusual dislike between Utah and ASU fan bases. In your mind why do you believe Utah fans feel a bit of hatred toward the Sun Devils?
AW: Both ASU and Arizona have a history of beating the Utes when Utah is favored, usually hurting our chances to compete for the division title. Utah has really struggled to maintain a consistent dominance in Arizona, and it’s played into the contentious feeling between the fan bases.
BV: Do you believe these are the two best teams in the Pac-12 South?
AW: The South seems so wide-open still. USC hasn’t looked bad by any means, and both Arizona schools are right up there as well. In my eyes, Utah feels like the favorite right now, with USC, ASU and ‘Zona battling out for that second place spot.
BV: Score prediction and why?
AW: Jayden Daniels is a true freshman and looks as though he’d benefit from another season or two of conditioning before he’s truly “elite”, but from what I’ve seen from him thus far is promising. I don’t see our defense completely shutting down his game. Couple that with a proven commodity in the backfield with Eno Benjamin, there’s a lot to be worried about on the offensive side. With that said, Utah’s rush defense is stellar, and Daniels is going to see pressure that he hasn’t seen yet. I’m giving the nod to Utah with the home field advantage, 27-14.