Three Things To Watch: San Diego State Vs. #14 Utah
SALT LAKE CITY- The Utes got things back on track last weekend hosting Southern Utah last weekend at Rice-Eccles Stadium. This weekend, Utah will play host again, as San Diego State makes their way to Salt Lake City. Taking on the Aztecs will be the Utes’ final tune up before Pac-12 play commences the following week.
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It’s hard to say exactly how much Utah has cleaned up since their opener in Gainesville due to the Thunderbirds simply being out-matched in every way talent-wise, but SDSU will hopefully provide a little clearer picture. Here is what I will be watching Saturday night.
Stop The SDSU Run
This was probably the most disappointing part of Utah’s first outing against Florida. Stopping the run on defense is what Utah is known for, it’s what head coach Kyle Whittingham has built his empire around. Watching the Utes have almost three hundred yards rushing hung on them by the Gators was shocking.
The good news is that the following week against SUU, the Utes only allowed 43 net yards rushing, however, the Thunderbirds aren’t exactly known for a stellar run attack. Utah’s coaches have been on record this week saying they were pleased with the tape, and that the defense used much better technique and fundamentals against the Thunderbirds which is half the battle.
San Deigo State should provide a slightly better barometer as to where they Utes stand on their improvements to their rush defense. The Aztecs aren’t world beaters running the ball early on in 2022, but they do average about four-yards per carry. Has Utah’s defense improved enough to keep SDSU under their current rushing average?
Let Their Be Chaos
Outside of a forced fumble that was recovered and set up the Utes’ first score against Florida, there wasn’t much in the way of what the Utah defense likes to call “chaos plays”. Chaos plays are essentially defensive efforts that lead to forced errors by the opposing offense. Over the years, the Utes have been pretty good at making life miserable for the opposition’s offense, but it was quiet to start 2022.
Last week, Utah’s defense showed some improvement in this area with two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown and two sacks. This week I really want to see more of an effort by the defensive line to get into the quarterback’s face. Utah needs to show they will be able to make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable at the very least, and preferably ineffective. They’ve had their moments, but now is the time to kick it up a notch.
Play Smart, But Play Mad
This game has been slated as a bit of a revenge game since the Aztecs got the better of Utah early last season in triple-overtime. Add in some disappointment of coming up short against the Gators and a night game at RES and you have the recipe for a win that catches people’s attention. Think “shots fired”.
No, San Diego State is not a big, name brand, however, Utah has been touted as a team that could make some noise in 2022 which means they need to play like it. I want to see Utes play smart, but mad Saturday night. They have everything right in front of them to do so, but so far have lacked that “edge”. The Aztecs present a great opportunity to let that fly and get people’s attention again. No mercy. Get your swagger set for Pac-12 play.
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