Last Saturday, the Utah Utes hosted the #12 UCLA Bruins in a close contest resulting in a 34-27 victory for the Bruins. Things do not get easier for the Utah football program this weekend as the #5 Stanford Cardinal come to Salt Lake City. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:00 pm in Rice-Eccles Stadium and will be broadcasted on the PAC-12 network. Both teams are coming off close games against ranked opponents, but the outcomes of the previous games favors the Cardinal.
Stanford looks to be a legit top-5 program this year and they have yet to lose a game, even after playing two ranked opponents. They are led by dual-threat junior quarterback Kevin Hogan and standout running back Tyler Gaffney. Stanford boasts one of the most balanced offenses in the country averaging 221.3 passing yards and 218 rushing yards per game. This balanced attack will give Utah problems on defense, as Utah has shown weaknesses in defending both. Early in the season Utah had troubles defending the passing game, however, last week against UCLA it was the rushing game that Utah had trouble containing.
So far this season Stanford has shown very few weaknesses, if any. They have big, physical offensive and defensive lines, a great kick-off returner and receiver in Ty Montgomery, and a formidable offense. If there is one weakness the Cardinal has shown this season it is in their pass defense, as they have allowed over 200 yards of passing in 3 of their 5 games this season. Travis Wilson will have to exploit this weakness and have an outstanding night if Utah wants to have a chance at a victory.
Against UCLA, Wilson threw for 288 yards with 2 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Aside from the 6 interceptions, which cannot all be attributed to the sophomore quarterback, Wilson had a solid night against a tough UCLA defense. It was also reported that Wilson was suffering from an illness that day, which may or may not have affected his performance. Against a ferocious Cardinal pass rush, Wilson will have to have a solid day with both his arm and legs if he wishes to exploit the weaker Cardinal secondary.
Stanford will be Utah’s toughest test of the season so far, and the Utes will have to play a near flawless game on all fronts if they wish to come out with the victory. Keeping the Cardinal offense off the field will be a key to a Utah victory, and this job will fall on the shoulders of running back James “Bubba” Poole and Travis Wilson. This is the first time Utah and Stanford will meet as PAC-12 opponents, and the Cardinal have not visited Salt Lake City since 1995, when Stanford registered a 27-20 victory. If there is one certainty in this game it is that the Rice-Eccles stadium will be loud and hostile, hopefully enough so to will the Utes to an upset victory. This is not a make or break for the Utes, but it would certainly be a breakout win in a season desperate for one.