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ASU Football Opponent Primer: Southern Utah Thunderbirds

Opening week

Syndication: The Spectrum Chris Kwiecinski / The Spectrum via Imagn Content Services, LLC

ASU’s 2021 Schedule

Sep. 2: vs. Southern Utah (Thu.)

Sep. 11: vs. UNLV

Sep. 18: @ BYU

Sep. 25: vs. Colorado

Oct. 2: @ UCLA

Oct. 8: vs. Stanford (Fri.)

Oct. 16: @ Utah

Oct. 30: vs. Washington State

Nov. 6: vs. USC

Nov. 13: @ Washington

Nov. 20: @ Oregon State

Nov. 27: vs. Arizona

Southern Utah’s 2021 (Spring) Season

The FCS and the Big Sky played a shortened season earlier this spring. While Southern Utah’s 1-5 record make the Thunderbirds look like a cakewalk, all were close games. All five losses were by one possession and by a combined 15 points.

It’ll be interesting to see how a team comes off of playing in the spring as well as coming off a short-week because the Thunderbirds open their season on August 28 at San Jose State.

Key Returners

Southern Utah had one player named to Preseason All-Big Sky Conference Team this offseason; La’akea Kaho’ohanohano-Davis. The linebacker enjoyed quite the breakout this past season. He led the team in tackles (57), sacks (7), tackles for a loss (9.5) and forced fumbles (2). The defense also returns all-conference selections from the spring season in defensive lineman Francis Bemiy and cornerback Alonzo (L.J.) Davis.

The Thunderbirds also hope that the running game improves after only averaging 3.2 yards per carry last season. Left tackle Braxton Jones is a multi-time all-conference selection, but the rest of the line will need to step up.

Biggest Losses

Wide receiver Landen Meason is no longer on the roster. The veteran pass catcher had 446 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He averaged a team-high 89.2 yards per game, but that main role will need to be handed off to someone else. Look for Brandon Schenks to step up into that role after catching six touchdowns last year.

Reason Why ASU Could Win

It’s simple, and no disrespect to Southern Utah, Arizona State is far more talented than the Thunderbirds of the FCS. After a lot of outside noise amidst from the NCAA investigation and a disappointing 2020 season, the Sun Devils probably want to be locked in and all business for the season.

In more of the Xs and Os, the Sun Devil defense is well experienced and Southern Utah doesn’t offer a ton of firepower. There probably shouldn’t be that many points scored on that side.

Reason Why ASU Could Lose

Will all the talk about the NCAA investigation distract the Sun Devils? Will playing in the spring and a week before help Southern Utah? Each question can be answered with a yes, unlikely, but it truly is a possibility. The Thunderbirds kept every game inside one possession in their spring season, and if they can do that it puts the pressure on the Sun Devils.