Utah Hopes to Bounce Back at #14 Stanford

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Kiffer Creveling

University of Utah junior quarterback Tyler Huntley (1) hands the ball off to Zack Moss (2) during an NCAA Football game at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Zach Janis

The Utes’ football schedule doesn’t get any easier this week as they travel to Palo Alto, CA to face the Stanford Cardinal.  

The University of Utah (2-2, 0-2 Pac-12) takes on the Cardinal (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) for the first time in 2018, after coming off a heartbreaking loss to Washington State, where the Utes’ saw their defense cooked by long plays and blown coverages. Now, facing a stacked team looking to take the Pac-12, the Utes face another long-ball offense under Cardinal head coach David Shaw.

The head to head matchup record-wise has the two teams locked at 4-4 all-time, with Stanford stealing a win in Salt Lake City just last year. The 23-20 victory saw the end of Utah’s hopes to steal the South, as they’d follow up with a four-game losing streak at USC, Oregon, and ASU.

Like last year, this matchup is a true litmus test for both the Utes, who need to get a Pac-12 win to stay alive in the South, and for Stanford, who needs to handle business against an opponent they’re favored against by multiple scores.

The name of the game for both sides is going to be containing the other’s run game. Both Bryce Love and Zack Moss are well-accomplished running backs, and while Love’s Heisman campaign is largely over, he was in the conversation for a reason. Moss is coming in hoping to remain as consistently productive as he’s been all season. The two runners have surprisingly similar statistics through five weeks of play, but Moss has the edge numbers-wise, with one more rushing touchdown and roughly 50 more rushing yards. To say that Moss is the better running back just off those numbers would be false, however. Remember, Love was one of the early-season favorites to win the award for the best college football player of the year. The Utah front seven will look to contain him throughout the entirety of the game.

Who Needs to have a good game?

Utah – Tyler Huntley, QB: The quarterback is usually the one to catch the blame for a loss, but Huntley really has been sloppy in Pac-12 play. Through five games, his completion percentage of 59.7 is down from last year’s total of 63.4. It’s only five games, sure, but that means lots of over-throwing receivers on comeback-attempting drives. Since Weber State, Huntley has yet to throw for a touchdown. That, coupled with an outstanding showing from backup Jason Shelley, should make Huntley’s seat as QB1 a little warmer.

Stanford – The Defense: Stanford’s defense put up quite a fight against Notre Dame last week, but still let the Fighting Irish score 38 points. In a tough loss, the Cardinal let in the most points of the season, this coming after holding USC to a field goal. The defense should bounce back, but expect some changes to starting lineups if they don’t.

The game can be watched on ESPN Networks. Kickoff is slated for 8:30 P.M. MT at Stanford Stadium on Oct. 6.

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@ZachJanis