Control of the Pac-12 South is on the line when the Sun Devils and Utes face off in Salt Lake City
The No. 13 Utes (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) have won two straight in dominant fashion. Utah crushed Oregon State 52-7 while allowing the Beavers to only gain 3.4 yards per play. Moving the ball came easy for the Utes. They totaled 503 yards and scored touchdowns on five of their first six drives to quickly put the game out of reach.
The No. 17 Sun Devils (5-1, 2-1) turned to a newfound offensive potency in order to rally and beat Washington State 38-34 to keep pace in the South division. They racked up a season-high 532 total yards against the Cougars to offset giving up a season-high 498 yards on the other side of the ball.
Arizona State holds a 22-8 lead in the series against Utah, and the Utes are just 1-10 all-time when facing a ranked Sun Devils team. Their lone victory came in 1973 when Utah dealt then-No. 8 Arizona State a 36-31 loss in Salt Lake City.
Arizona State at Utah
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Utah -14
When Arizona State Has the Ball
It took a while to get the ball moving, but the Sun Devils are finally starting to show signs of having a quality offense. Arizona State has averaged 31.0 points per game in Pac-12 play so far after reaching 30 points just once in three non-conference games.
Jayden Daniels has helped the offense take a few steps forward with his continued progression at quarterback. In only six career starts, Daniels has already tallied three 300-yard passing games. His best performance to date came against Washington State. The freshman threw for a career-high 363 yards and three touchdowns while completing 72 percent of his passes. He ranks third in the Pac-12 in total passing yards (1,610), trailing only Washington State's Anthony Gordon and Washington's Jacob Eason.
The Sun Devils will likely need Daniels to have a big game since Utah is well equipped to make it difficult to build any sort of rhythm in the running game. Through six games, the Utes are allowing just 52.8 rushing yards per game. That leads the Pac-12 by a large margin and ranks second overall in the FBS. Still, Eno Benjamin will be the best running back Utah has faced to this point. Benjamin has tallied 529 yards on the ground so far this season and has scored a touchdown in eight consecutive games.
When Utah Has the Ball
The Utes have carved out an identity as a potent ball control offense through the first six games. Utah put both Washington State and Oregon State away thanks to multiple clock-chewing scoring drives. A punishing running attack made it possible. The Utes lead the Pac-12 in rushing offense, churning out 228.8 yards per game.
Arizona State's stout run defense will offer a serious test to that ground attack. The Sun Devils allow 91.7 rushing yards per game, second only to the Utes themselves in the Pac-12. Still, keeping Zack Moss in check is no easy task. Moss has piled up 514 yards through five games, and he leads the league with 7.6 yards per carry. Moss only needs 55 yards to become Utah's career rushing leader and will be motivated to get it done in front of a home crowd.
Moss isn't the only weapon in the Utes' offensive arsenal. Tyler Huntley has been a model of consistency and efficiency through his first six games. Dating back to last season, he has thrown 133 consecutive passes without an interception. The senior quarterback ranks third in the FBS in completion percentage (75.6 percent) and fifth in the FBS in pass efficiency (187.6). Huntley also leads the Pac-12 in both categories.
Huntley is good at spreading the ball around. Six different receivers have made at least 10 catches for the Utes. Demari Simpkins leads the way with 14 receptions for 188 yards, and Bryan Thompson is the leader in total yardage with 310 yards on 11 catches. They are just two of many targets for Huntley that Arizona State will be forced to deal with.
Arizona State has never beaten three ranked opponents on the road in the same season, and the Sun Devils have a chance to do it against Utah. This is a game pitting teams that seem to be evenly matched on both sides of the ball at first glance. Both teams have rugged run-stopping defenses. It will ultimately come down to which offense is more effective at playing efficient, error-free football. Utah may have just enough of an edge in that department with Tyler Huntley playing in peak form.
Prediction: Utah 31, Arizona State 24
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.