Utes’ newfound passing prowess could spell trouble for ASU
The Arizona State Sun Devils are a confident group as they head into a pivotally important Pac-12 South matchup with the Utah Utes Saturday in Salt Lake City. ASU is in the midst of a three-game win streak and has reason to feel good about its chances. But the Utes have also built momentum in recent weeks as well after a 1-2 start, and the Sun Devils cannot afford to overlook them. Here are three Utah players to keep an eye out for on Saturday:
Sophomore quarterback Cameron Rising
If not for Rising’s heroics in Utah’s two most recent games, Saturday’s contest would not be nearly as significant. After taking over for hugely disappointing Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer — who walked away from Utah’s program after three uninspiring games — Rising revived the Utes’ offense. He put up modest statistics in his first start against Washington State before out-dueling USC’s Kedon Slovis in a 42-26 Utah victory on the road in Los Angeles. Unlike the turnover-prone Brewer, Rising has avoided costly errors and run the offense efficiently since his promotion. Although the Sun Devils have given opposing quarterbacks fits this season, Rising could certainly make them regret any would-be slip ups.
Junior linebacker Devin Lloyd
As we mentioned before the season, Lloyd is the heart and soul of Utah’s defense. His play in 2021 has borne that out, as he leads the team in tackles (54) and interceptions (2). He is likely to be used as a spy for Jayden Daniels on Saturday, and the Utes will lean heavily on him to prevent Daniels from breaking off the long runs that have come to define his season up to this point.
Whoever starts at running back
ASU has yet to allow a 100-yard rushing performance from a running back this season, but any one of the Utes’ ballcarriers could put an end to that impressive streak. Micah Bernard, Tavion Thomas and T.J. Pledger have taken turns breaking the century mark in each of Utah’s last three games, and it is anyone’s guess who will start on Saturday. All three are hard-running power backs with impressive yards-per-carry averages, and whichever one ends up getting the nod from head coach Kyle Whittingham will be a worthy challenger for the Sun Devils’ stout front seven.