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Runnin' Utes kick off Pac-12 play at Arizona State

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Utah looks to showcase improvement on the road in opener.

Douglas C. Pizac-USA TODAY Sports

By weeks end, we should have a good idea of what direction the Runnin' Utes are heading in Pac-12 play. Though it might be difficult to expect a win, let alone a sweep, on this road trip through Arizona, their two games against the Sun Devils and Wildcats should offer a good measuring stick for a program that has largely feasted on lower teams - even if the contests don't amount to victories.

This swing through The Grand Canyon State begins tonight as the Utes travel to take on Arizona State - a team they actually managed to beat last year.

But these Sun Devils look improved, having started the season 11-2 ... five more wins than last year's team saw all season. While, like Utah, they've played a bit of a watered down schedule, they do own victories over Arkansas, Texas Tech and CSU Northridge - a team that beat the Runnin' Utes.

When these two teams met last year in Tempe, Utah lost 57-52, which was not surprising since they finished the season winless on the road.

This season, Utah managed their first road win in two seasons when they defeated Texas State. But this is definitely a much bigger test than the Bobcats, who are only 4-10 on the season. While a victory might be too much to expect right now, a competitive game is something I think we should all expect. If this team is as improved as we think they might be, getting blown out in the conference opener, which is exactly what happened last year, should not be tolerated. And hey ... maybe they do win. They're certainly not playing an unbeatable opponent.

So, let's see what this team is made of and whether they are improved enough to make some noise in the Pac-12.