Utah will be playing a somewhat similar team to themselves today, in the Stanford Cardinal. Physical and dominating on defense, and inconsistent on offense. Stanford (5-4) (3-3 Pac-12) however, has not been able to find the success that Utah has had in close games, and when playing ranked opponents.
Utah has found ways to beat teams despite their injuries and less than threatening passing attack, and they will need to do the same this week. The good thing is last week Kaelin Clay established himself as a deep threat, plus, Wilson showed glimpses of being last year's gunslinger. The Utes will most certainly need both this week to finish the California sweep. Here are some key matchups to look for today in Palo-Alto.
Devontae Booker vs The Tree's Front 7
DB-23 is now Utah's 12th all-time 1000 yard rusher, and while the coaching staff traded out some of his carries to use him in the passing game last week, he was still able to find success between the tackles. Look for a heavy dose of Booker today, because against Oregon, the 'Furd gave up 260+ yards on the ground. The Tree will be facing, the best back in the conference today and he should be able to make things happen early.
Kaelin Clay vs. Ty Montgomery
While this isn't a head-to-head matchup, it will be important to see who makes the bigger impact for their team. Montgomery (6'2, 215) only differs from Clay in stature, because of how important they are to the success of their respective teams. Both are dangerous on special teams as well as down field targets in the passing game. Whichever of these two players has the better day will almost certainly tell which team gets the win.
Sack Lake City vs. Kevin Hogan
While Hogan has not had the season of a year ago, he has still been able to make some big time plays. Last year those plays came in the passing game, this year he has been asked to run a lot more. Coincidentally, Utah has had a bit of an issue containing mobile QB's. Hogan does not boast the athletic ability of other QB's in the conference, but in the open field, he can hurt you a lot like Travis Wilson does. Utah will have to limit what he does in the run game today and make him a pass first guy, this way they can key in on his favorite and most dangerous WR in Montgomery.
Andy Phillips vs. The Shanks
By all accounts, AP has had a great season, but the last few weeks, he has had some not so typical misses. The great thing about Phillips is that he has a very short memory when it comes to mistakes. Utah is going to need him today. If Wilson can not get this offense rolling, today will turn into a field position chess match where every point counts. I still believe that Andy is the best kicker in the nation and that will be on full display this afternoon.
The season goes fast, too fast even. Utah is 6-3 (3-3 Pac-12) and making a statement in the league as well as nationally. A win today would solidify the growing thought that the Utes are on their way to competing for the South division title yearly, and making serious runs for the league title and College Football Playoff. This team is very close, and figuring some things out this week on offense and on the road will only embolden them that much more.
Give a listen to the latest episode of The U Fan Cast, where we have a roundtable discussion previewing the Stanford game; plus give a listen to Adia's post practice interviews from earlier this week.