OK, guys follow my logic: Oregon beat Utah, but UCLA beat Oregon, therefore we already beat Utah so we shouldn’t have to play Friday. Am I right? I wish. Utah started off the season 4-0, but going into Friday’s game, the Utes are on a four game losing streak, so both teams have a .500 record. I’m going to stick my neck out and say this is a winnable game. The Salt Lake Tribune puts all the blame on head coach Kyle Whittingham, and frankly, when I read their article, I thought you could have interchanged “Kyle Whittingham” with “Jim Mora”, and the article could have been about our own head coach. But we all know that the Bruins can take a winnable game and flush it down the toilet. Let’s take a look at this God-help-us beatable offense.
Sophomore Tyler Huntley is the man the Utes are going with, although we have also seen senior Troy Williams this year during garbage time and when Huntley went down with a shoulder injury in Utah’s Pac 12 opener against Arizona. Williams started every game last year, but this year, it’s Huntley’s team. He outperformed Williams in camp and won the starting job, although Williams came in when necessary and handled the situation like a team player and a professional. Huntley has passed for over 1,400 yards this season (that’s with missing two games), and has a pass completion percentage at just over 66%. However, he started off the season well over 70%, and completed a season high 88% of his passes at Arizona (although he only threw nine). His stats have seen a drop over the last two weeks since he returned from his injury and the Utes have really hit the skids. Now, when you line him up with Josh Rosen, I honestly don’t know who is going to look better on Saturday. Rosen’s stats have been steadily declining as we get closer to the 2018 draft (anyone else feel like he’s completely checked out?), and after seeing mild success with Devon Modster last weekend, I say throw the Utes a curveball and put Modster in.
Utah had to replace a staggering 16 players that all made their way to the NFL in one way or another, and in that mix the offensive line that lost four starters, including left tackle Garett Bolles, the 20th overall pick in the NFL draft. Rebuilding the offensive line was supposed to have been key to the Utes’ success this year, especially since they were picked to place second in the South Division. Salesi Uhatafe, a three-year starter, will anchor the offensive line as he shifts from right guard to left guard. The rest of the line includes Jordan Agasiva (right guard), Lo Falemaka (center), Darrin Paulo (right tackle) and Jackson Barton (left tackle) slated as the starters. Agasiva joined the program as a junior college transfer this year. Paulo caught a ridiculous pass last weekend in their loss to Oregon, which was received by Utah fans with mixed emotions.
The only way Utah could score a TD in the red zone was by complete fluke. #UTAHvsUO— Chris Samuels (@samuelsski27) October 28, 2017
Darren Carrington II will be the man our secondary needs to cover, as he leads the Utah offense with 54 receptions for 779 yards. Williams was touted as being able to throw the deep ball at the beginning of the season, but we really haven’t seen much of that or any major success with the receivers. The Utah offense is almost completely balanced, with 10 touchdowns on the ground and 11 in the air. Carrington will definitely need to be watched, as he averages just over 14 yards per reception. Other receivers of note are Siaosi Wilson, who only has 15 receptions this year but averages almost 19 yards per catch. Samson Nacua and Zack Moss (listed as a running back) will also be on Williams’s radar as these guys attempt to burn our defense.
Zack Moss is the Utes’ weapon on the ground, and it’s no surprise because he can take catch downfield but also grab a handoff and run with it. He’s got 587 yards rushing and averages 5.1 yards per rush. Tyler Huntley is actually in second behind Moss in rushing statistics with 288 yards on the season, and only one other Ute, Devonta'e Henry-Cole, has yards in the triple digits this year. It is apparent that the Utes are really struggling, and may even have a worse run game than we do.
Is this game going to be a W for UCLA? I really hope so. On paper, UCLA wins this. But we all know college football is never about what’s on paper and is all about what plays out on the field—we’re playing on a Friday, traveling to Utah hasn’t been easy for us (although two years ago we won on a frigid November day as I sat in my Utah hotel with food poisoning—screw you, Buca di Beppo!), and UCLA has been anything but consistent on either side of the ball this year. Rosen’s injury didn’t appear to be serious, so we should have our starter in place. But does Rosen even want to be there? We only have four games remaining this year and every win counts, because I’m sure we all want to travel to Texas for the prestigious Frisco Bowl.