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ASU Football Opponent Primer: Utah Utes

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Week Four

Utah v USC Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

ASU’s 2020 Schedule

Nov. 7: @ USC

Nov. 14: vs. Cal

Nov. 21: @ Colorado

Nov. 28: Utah

Dec 5: UCLA

Dec 11: @ Arizona

Utah’s 2019 season

Led by a senior-heavy roster, the Utah Utes finished atop the Pac-12 South for the second consecutive year with an 11-3 record (8-2 in conference play).

The Utes also ranked No. 11 in the final College Football Playoff rankings, their best finish in the poll’s history. At one point, the Utes were the fifth-ranked team in the country and received strong consideration for the national semifinals.

However, their hopes at competing on the big stage were doused in a 37-15 defeat by the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 Championship game. Utah ended its season with a 38-10 Alamo Bowl loss to the Texas Longhorns (8-5).

Key Returners

While there are question marks all over Utah’s offense, the receiving game remains intact with an abundance of weapons.

Britain Covey, Utah’s leading receiver in 2015 and 2018, will look to be a productive asset out of the slot and as a return specialist. Covey redshirted in 2019 after playing the first four games to give his surgically repaired right knee more time to heal.

With two years of eligibility remaining, Covey has a shot to become the Utes’ all-time receptions leader. He needs 80 catches to pass Kevin Dyson’s record (192).

Tight end Brant Kuithe, whose nine touchdowns tied for first in the FBS at his position, also returns for his junior season. Kuithe was selected to the All-Pac-12 second-team and PFF All-America third-team after leading the Utes in receiving yards in (602) 2019.

His three touchdowns against Colorado helped Utah secure its spot in the Pac-12 Championship.

Biggest losses

The Utes lost many key players on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss, the Utes’ all-time rushing leader, both departed for the NFL.

Defensive end Bradlee Anae, whose 30 sacks lead the program, was a fifth-round choice by the Dallas Cowboys. Defensive backs Jaylon Johnson, Julian Blackmon, Terrell Burgess and Javelin Guidry also made it to the next level.

Reasons why ASU could win

After traveling to Salt Lake City for a rainy matchup, the Sun Devils will host the Utes in sunny Tempe this season. Jayden Daniels isn’t a fresh-faced gunslinger anymore. Now, he commands an offense that boasts some of the most dangerous and young talents in the country.

ASU’s defense surprisingly held its own against the Utes. The Sun Devils kept constant pressure on Huntley and forced him to rush while throwing the football, resulting in numerous erratic throws and an interception. ASU also recovered all three of Utah’s fumbles.

If the Sun Devils can find their groove on offense early and the defense manages to stay aggressive and force turnovers, then the Sun Devils should be more than able to avenge last year’s 21-3 loss.

Reasons why ASU could lose

Daniels had the worst statistical start of his young career against the Utes at Rice Eccles-Stadium last season.

Daniels only completed four passes on 18 attempts for 25 yards and an interception, while taking three sacks in the process.

The Sun Devils failed to score a touchdown against the Utes; it was the only game they were shut out of the end zone. The Utes always find a way to consistently field stingy defenses, even if there are holes to fill.