On the line, redshirt freshman Viliseni Fauonuku has been a huge, pleasant surprise behind Star Lotulelei at defensive tackle, and he is proving to be a force in his own right in the middle. The Kruger brothers looked forward to having a big year in David's final, senior season. While both have been solid, neither has made the impact they had hoped, so the BYU rivalry game might be the spark, or catalyst to seeing either or both of these Utah natives break out.
Nate Fakahafua has been Utah's most disruptive defensive player, and the Utes will pull out the steps to pressure Cougar quarterbacks. Look for Kalani Sitake to once again be creative and disguise where the Ute pressure is coming from, and look for Fakahafua, in particular, to play a huge role in that scheme.
Who are the primary playmakers on Utah's offense that could cause BYU trouble?
Utah's focus under Brian Johnson has been to spread the ball around to its plethora of playmakers, which hasn't exactly come to fruition yet. While that may be true, Utah has the personnel and on any given day, any one of them could step up.
Tight end Jake Murphy had a big performance against Northern Colorado with six catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns, while fellow end David Rolf had two catches for 46 yards versus Utah State. With five capable tight ends on the roster, this group is a match-up nightmare for any defense, and the ends could end up being Hays' security blanket on Saturday. Murphy in particular could cause BYU fits, but the Utes have plenty of other weapons at their disposal should the Cougars key in too heavily on this group.
DeVonte Christopher has a knack for making the big play at dramatic moments, and Dres Anderson is emerging, while the 6-foot-3 Ken Scott makes for a nice target against the smaller corners on the outside. The Utes have effective personnel all the way down the line, but whether or not the Utes have the ability to get the ball into their hands remains in question, given the breakdowns occurring at the line of scrimmage with the offensive line.
Utah will win the game if ... ?
Utah will need to start quickly on offense, which is a tall order for a squad who notoriously starts slowly. Brian Johnson's early play-calling will be crucial to setting the offensive tone of the game. Utah must jump ahead early and ride the momentum and energy of the home crowd.
Utah will also need offensive line to step up and provide running lanes for the Ute backs, which is the heart of the Utah offense. The Utah defense has focused on creating more turnovers, and it will need to do exactly that for a Utah offense that is limping along behind poor offensive line play.
The front seven need to button up and stop the run and essentially take control of the game at the line of scrimmage. Pressure from the defensive line will help alleviate weaknesses and concerns behind them, and sacks and tackles for loss will help win the field position battle.
Utah's defensive line play will be key to any success Utah may have. Utah will need to win the turnover battle to have a chance, and big plays from its special teams units will certainly play a very large role in a Ute victory.
Veteran corners Mo Lee and Ryan Lacy need to turn in lock-down performances and help secure BYU receivers in order to help out the young safeties behind them. Both have shown good instincts for jumping routes, but usually can't hold onto the ball to complete interceptions. While turnovers would be a plus, these two Ute corners must have huge performances against larger BYU receivers.
Regardless of which quarterback starts for Utah, it is imperative that they make good decisions, limit mistakes and play within themselves and avoid trying to do too much — a tall task in an emotional rivalry game. Both will need to manage emotions and stick to the game plan, which should be fairly conservative, with timely shots down the field peppered in for good measure.
The Ute quarterbacks can ill afford to take sacks or hold onto the ball too long in the pocket, which result in unfavorable third-and-long situations. The Utes don't need huge numbers from their quarterback, but do need to be effective on third downs and efficient in the red-zone. The Utes need good ball distribution and a solid running game in order to have success Saturday.
Utah will lose the game if ... ?
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