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Utah Opponent Preview: Stanford Defense

Today, Utah's offense faces the Pac-12's total defense leader and the fifth leading defense in the nation.

Stanford's league leading defense is anchored by inside linebacker Blake Martinez.
Stanford's league leading defense is anchored by inside linebacker Blake Martinez.
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Today, Utah's up and down offense takes on one of the best defenses in the country. Stanford is fifth in the nation in total defense, giving up just 281 yards per game and 16.1 points. Stanford is the only defense in the Pac-12 giving up fewer than 20 points per game (Utah is third at 24.6).

Utah's offense is predicated on the success of running back Devontae Booker, which is bad news, because Stanford leads the league in rushing defense, giving up just 110.2 yards per game.

Defensive Line:

Utah's tackles will be tested today by Stanford defensive end Henry Anderson (6-6, 287). Anderson, a fifth year senior, leads the team in quarterback hurries with eight, and he's also logged 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Utah quarterback Travis Wilson will need to get the ball out quickly and test the Stanford secondary. Stanford's strength on the outside will also hinder the Utah option game, but, as Utah showed last season, there are opportunities to attack the perimeter with screens and swing passes.


Stanford is strong up the middle led by inside linebacker Blake Martinez's 74 tackles, six tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, one interception and one interception. Fellow inside linebacker A.J. Tarpley has recorded 58 tackles, four tackles for a loss, and two sacks. Utah's offensive line will need to get to the second level, and the tight ends will need to get some push off the edge with the production Stanford gets from their terrific linebacking corps.

Defensive Backs:

Strong safety Jordan Richards is a hard-hitting run stopper. Richards has logged 61 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one interception, and three forced fumbles. Booker, who has had troubles with ball security, will need to run with a tight lock on the football in order to make his yards meaningful. The wide receivers will need to be be strong with the ball as well, as junior corner Alex Carter (6-foot, 202) leads the team with seven passes defended and six pass breakups.

Stanford isn't traditionally known for having overly athletic skills players, so there will be some chances for Utah downfield if the Utes offensive line can handle the Stanford front seven.