Arizona State welcome the Utah Utes to Tempe for a Thursday night meeting in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils are short a game, needing one more to become bowl eligible. We’ll see if their sixth win comes tonight against Utah, in a game where they have to stop the bleeding. This will be Arizona State’s fourth shot at it in a row, as they have lost three straight against Colorado, Washington State, and Oregon. Colorado and Washington State are pretty good teams this season, but a 54-34 loss to Oregon? Ouch. Utah have two blemishes on their record, as they come into tonight with a record of 7-2. Their losses have come against Cal and Washington. The last time out on the field resulted in the loss to Washington, a 31-24 loss following a 52-45 win vs UCLA the week prior.
Many of the problems for Arizona State root from their quarterback dilemma. Well, okay, they probably need a defense too, which has been getting demolished by opposing offenses. However, this is college football, where you can get away with allowing over 40 points a game and still come out ahead. I suspect if Arizona State had a decent quarterback and avoided injuries, they would have their sixth win by now. All indications suggest that Arizona State will get Manny Wilkins back at quarterback Thursday night.
Wilkins is a freshman who should blossom into a serious quarterback for the Sun Devils. He is a scrambler that can make a play out of nothing. However, I’m of the belief that he has a long way to go. Considering the production Arizona State has gotten from the other quarterbacks, Wilkins should be a step up, though. He’s passed for 6 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, and rushed for 227 yards. There’s been only one game this season that he’s gone all the way through without an interception, which was against the pathetic pass defense of the Texas Tech Red Raiders. He only played six snaps against Washington State, so we’ll exclude that one. He plays a physical Utah defense in his return to the starting lineup.
Utah Utes vs. Arizona State Sun Devils NCAAF Betting Odds:
vs. Arizona State +6(-110)
Odds provided by Bovada.lv
Utah vs. Arizona State Pick:
Arizona State has been abysmal defending the pass. Perhaps abysmal is being too kind. Pathetic and awful is the better analogy. The Sun Devils have relied on the blitz with great regularity over the last few seasons. More often than not, Arizona State have brought the blitz. And more often than not, they’ve been getting killed by the blitz. The Sun Devils are allowing an average of around 400 yards per game passing. That is pretty shocking, which is about 60 yards difference to the team ahead of them, Rice. They are 128th in the FBS, dead last against the pass.
The good news, if there is any good news about those numbers, is that Arizona State are actually respectable against the run. All of that blitzing plugs up running lanes, but has left the backend wide open for quarterbacks to have a field day against. So, they have to take the good with the very bad. Note that the Sun Devils are 17th against the run, allowing 116 yards per game. Utah have a tough, physical offensive line. There are a couple guys on that line who can have their way with a defensive line. The offensive line is definitely the strength of this unit. And against a team that blitzes a lot, a quality offensive line is a good asset to have.
Utah are 33th in the country running the football, averaging 214.2 yards on the ground. Arizona State will be tested against their host of running backs, along with that offensive line I just talked about. Utah are also 1st in the Pac-12 in big plays, with quarterback Troy Williams connecting on ten passes of over 40-yards. The Utah defense also ranks highly, as they are 1st in the country in turnovers with 23, with 15 interceptions and 8 forced fumbles. I don’t think that is going to bode well for the less than 100 percent Manny Wilkins, who like I said, has 6 touchdowns to 5 interceptions with his only interception-free game coming against the horrible Texas Tech defense. I can’t see Utah allowing a banged up Arizona State team getting to them tonight. A 33-24 win looks very possible in favor of Utah.
PICK: UTAH -6 (-110)