Utah-Arizona St. Preview

Utah is well aware of its woeful history against Arizona State, including a particularly painful defeat last season.

The No. 15 Sun Devils have won 10 straight in this series over the 18th-ranked Utes, and Saturday night’s winner in Tempe is guaranteed at least a share of first place in the South Division of the Pac-12.

Arizona State (6-1, 4-1) tops the division, while Utah (6-1, 3-1) and No. 14 Arizona are one-half game back. The Sun Devils and Utes have yet to face the Wildcats, who visit No. 25 UCLA on Saturday.

The Sun Devils haven’t lost to Utah since a 31-28 defeat in 1976. They have taken all three Pac-12 matchups, winning 35-14 in 2011 and 37-7 the next year before last season’s matchup was particularly devastating for the Utes.

Utah took a 19-7 lead into the fourth quarter before allowing the final 13 points. Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly ran for a fourth-quarter score before throwing a 14-yard TD pass for the winning points with 2:37 left.

"We haven’t beaten ASU in a while," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "Last year we had them on the ropes. I think we had a 10-point lead deep into the fourth quarter and we felt like we let that one get away from us, and that was disappointing."

Arizona State coach Todd Graham indicated that Kelly is OK after taking a hit to the helmet in last Saturday’s 24-10 win at Washington.

Kelly was hurt when throwing the winning touchdown to Gary Chambers with 3 minutes left, and Arizona State did not send out its offense again as defensive back Armand Perry sealed the win with a 61-yard interception return for a score.

There may not be too big a drop-off if Kelly can’t play and the start goes to Mike Bercovici, who has thrown for 1,243 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions in his last three games.

Whoever starts will face a Utah defense leading the nation with 35 sacks – 17 during a three-game win streak. The Sun Devils were sacked a season-worst seven times last weekend.

Arizona State expects the return of Cameron Smith from an undisclosed injury that kept him out of the Huskies game. The receiver is third on the team with 307 yards.

Graham also said that left guard Christian Westerman is doubtful with a leg injury.

The Utes suffered a major blow on the injury front this week, learning top receiver Dres Anderson would miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Anderson has team highs of 355 yards and four touchdowns.

Anderson had a key role in Utah being a much-improved team from the one that went 5-7 a year ago, but new running back Devontae Booker has played a bigger one. Booker is third in the conference with 120.6 rushing yards per game, and he’s averaging a Pac-12-leading 166.3 in conference games.

"The biggest difference in their team this year is their running back," Graham said. "He is very physical, I don’t know him but I like him. He makes you tackle him, he runs hard, and you can tell their line has a belief in him, and it’s a team that understands you need to run the football to win."

Booker ran for 102 yards in last Saturday’s thrilling 24-21 victory over then-No. 20 Southern California. Travis Wilson threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Kaelin Clay with 8 seconds left in a huge confidence boost for the quarterback, who lost the starting job to Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson the week before.

"Travis is just like the rest of our guys – a tough kid, a competitive kid," Whittingham said. "It hasn’t been ideal for Travis this season – less than ideal, but he’s had a great attitude through it all, as has Kendal."

Wilson completed 6 of 21 passes with two TDs and two interceptions in last season’s loss to the Sun Devils.

Utah has a major weapon in punter Tom Hackett, who leads the nation with 13 punts inside the 10-yard line and an average of 47.0 yards per kick. His 44 punts are the most in college football.

"I think their punter is absolutely phenomenal," Graham said.