Salt Lake City, UT (SportsNetwork.com) - With a key Pac-12 matchup against
UCLA lurking in the distance, the No. 5 Stanford Cardinal will turn its
attention to Salt Lake City where the Utah Utes await for a conference bout at
The Cardinal has taken control of the conference standings with three wins in
as many Pac-12 contests. The most recent victory was perhaps the most
impressive, as the Cardinal held on for a 31-28 triumph over the then No. 15
Washington Huskies. The victory was the 13th straight for the Cardinal, which
are 5-0 for just the third time since 1950.
"I have no idea who we play after Utah," Stanford head coach David Shaw said,
assuaging any thoughts that his team might overlook the Utes. "(Utah) is a
team that plays great at home. In all three phases they do a really good job,
so we'll have to come ready to play."
Although Utah is sporting a competitive 3-2 record entering this matchup,
there Pac-12 battles have not gone well. Both of the Utes' losses have come
against league foes, including a 34-27 setback against No. 11 UCLA at home
last Thursday. If there is any solace the Utes can take in their 0-2
conference mark, it is that the two losses have come by a combined 10 points.
Despite Utah becoming a member of the Pac-12 two years ago, it has not faced
Stanford. This will be the first league game between the two programs and just
the fifth all-time meeting. Stanford is 3-2 in the all-time series, but Utah
posted a 17-10 win when they last met in 1996.
Stanford's offense was stymied against Washington. Although the Cardinal has
not been one of the most dynamic or productive offensive units in recent
years, by putting up just 279 yards of total offense, while getting just 14
first downs, it was still a down game for them. Thus far the balanced, grind-
it-out style has worked fine for Stanford which is one of just three teams in
the conference to have run for more yards (1,051) than it has thrown for
Tyler Gaffney is the workhorse in the backfield with a team-high 92 carries
for 467 yards and six touchdowns. Gaffney did not have his best game against
Washington, totaling 85 yards and a score on 20 carries. Anthony Wilkerson (47
carries, 200 yards, TD) spells Gaffney as a more than serviceable second
Running the show from under center is Kevin Hogan. Stanford's signal caller
has completed 62.6 percent of his pass attempts, with 11 touchdowns to just
four interceptions. However, Hogan is averaging just 186.4 yards per game
through the air.
Just because the Cardinal prefers the run, doesn't mean it is lacking strong
receivers. Ty Montgomery (23 receptions, 383 yards, five TDs) has been a
reliable target and has had a knack for getting into the end zone. Meanwhile,
Devon Cajuste (12 receptions, 251 yards, three TDs) is a big-play threat that
is averaging an impressive 20.9 yards per reception.
Stanford has managed to remain undefeated despite not playing the same type of
dominating defense it did a year ago. Although the Cardinal have been solid
defensively, the team currently ranks outside the top 40 nationally in yards
allowed (372.6 ypg). A year ago Stanford finished 20th in that category.
Stanford is still an attacking defense that ranks fourth in the conference in
sacks (14.0) and tackles for loss (37.0).
Shayne Skov (43 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks), Trent Murphy (6.0 TFL, 4.0
sacks) and Josh Mauro (4.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks) have been the pillars of the team's
impressive front seven.
Going up against that front seven will be Travis Wilson and the suddenly
dynamic Utah offense. The Utes were not a very versatile offense a year ago
but this season things have changed. Utah is scoring an impressive 39 points
per game and totaling more than 480 yards of total offense.
The play of Wilson has been a major reason as he has totaled 1,406 yards and
11 touchdowns through the air and an additional 248 yards and five scores on
the ground. However, he has shown a tendency to try to force balls or make
bad reads as he has been intercepted nine times.
Though Wilson has been utilized in the running game, the Utes haven't had much
consistency at running back. Bubba Pool (350 yards, TD) leads the team in
rushing attempts and yards, but Lucky Radley (138 yards, two TDs) and Kelvin
York (128 yards, TD) have each been the lead rusher at some point this season,
including last week when York rushed for a team-high 51 yards against UCLA.
"We're trying to find out if one of the three will separate themselves, and
right now they're all giving us good production," Utah head coach Kyle
Whittingham said of his backfield options. "It's not a situation where we're
searching for someone to give us some production because we're getting
production. It's we're searching to see if anyone's going to separate
themselves, and if not, then they'll all continue to get carries."
On the edge Dres Anderson has been one of the more dangerous and productive
receivers in the Pac-12. Anderson has recorded only 24 receptions, but he has
made the most of those opportunities by amassing 510 yards and four scores.
Anderson is fifth in the conference in receiving yards and his 21.3 yards per
reception average is among the 10 best marks in the country. Sean Fitzgerald
(19 receptions, 284 yards, three TDs) is another receiver that has been
Utah doesn't do anything flashy on defense and is actually in the bottom half
of the league in both points (26.2 ppg) and yards (406.0 ypg) allowed.
However, Utah has been a solid defensive unit and like Stanford is strong in
terms of creating negative plays, ranking third in the Pac-12 in tackles for
loss (38), while leading in sacks (18).
Trevor Reilly (37 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks) and Jared Norris (37 tackles,
4.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks) are the leading tacklers for the Utes and are also major
contributors in the pass rush.
The Sports Network