Arizona State Week 4 Preview: Utah Utes

The Sun Devils (2-1) open Pac-12 conference play against the Utah Utes on Saturday at Frank Kush Field in Tempe: game time is 10 p.m. ET and it will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.

While ASU’s loss to Missouri last week is only one strike on a season that’s three weeks young, Sun Devil fans know all too well what it feels like when a season fosters false hope at the start and turns into sheer frustration by October.  So if it seems like I’m taking a fatalistic stance from time to time, guilty as charged.

The Utes of the University of Utah are 2-1, are coming to Tempe fresh off a win against Brigham Young last Saturday.  Their one loss, to in-state rival Utah State, came as an overtime heartbreaker two weeks ago.  What the Utah Utes lack in an inexperienced offensive line, they more than make up for with the strength of their defensive front, led by Star Lotulelei, one of the top defensive tackles in the Pac-12.

ASU, however, has a matching strength in the same position: Will Sutton, a redshirt junior from Corona, California who is tied for second in the conference for sacks.  Sutton is an asset to the defense, and has a usually stoic Todd Graham singing his praises. After last week’s loss, the team and its critics were vocal about a number of things which needed improvement during practice this week.  Speed and ball protection got some attention, as did the rhythm of the quarterback swap (the two-QB system will still be used, according to offensive coordinator Mike Norvell).

Of the problems I noticed last week (not connecting on passes, confusion on the field, a lack of confidence regarding the effectiveness of the plays), most seemed to stem from intangibles: momentum, feel, intuition.  Call it what you will (and you won’t often hear it called anything at all), it’s going to be an important component for Saturday’s game.  It’s often said that games are more often lost by a team, as opposed to truly ‘won’ (e.g. a team’s mistakes are more likely to influence the outcome of a game than their successes).  I think the Devils are a perfect example of this, and they’ll need to get their mojo back in order to succeed against the Utes.

Tempe weather forecasts for Saturday predict cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 90s: a stellar combination for tailgating and one not often experienced in September home games at Sun Devil Stadium.  Tailgating festivities don’t tend to vary based on the success of the team, although the size of the student section at the start of the second quarter can be a good measure of fan satisfaction.

With all of this in mind, and a day remaining until kickoff, there’s just one more thing to say: Fork ‘Em, Sparky!

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE