San Jose St.-Utah Preview

BY foxsports • September 21, 2010

If quarterback Terrance Cain continues his impressive play, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham may have a difficult decision on his hands.

The 13th-ranked Utes look to open 4-0 for the second time in three years when they host San Jose State on Saturday.

Starting quarterback Jordan Wynn has been out of action since injuring his thumb during a season-opening 27-24 overtime win against then-No. 15 Pittsburgh. Wynn went 21 of 36 for 283 yards and three touchdowns.

Cain has stepped up in Wynn's absence, leading Utah to back-to-back wins. The Utes posted a 56-14 victory at New Mexico last Saturday night, with the senior going 20 of 23 for 248 yards with a career-high three touchdowns and also running for a score.

"He was almost perfect on Saturday," Whittingham said. "... He has played exceptionally well in two games. His pass efficiency rating is off-the-charts good."

Cain completed a school-record 87.0 percent of his passes while improving to 9-1 as a starter. He is 33 for 43 with 455 yards, five TDs and no interceptions this season.

"It's great to have that stat but the most important stat is to get the victory," Cain said. "That's all I'm worried about."

With Cain playing at an exceptionally high level, Whittingham has had the luxury of taking it slow with Wynn, who is expected to throw in practice this week. It has not yet been determined who will be under center Saturday.

Aside from the quarterback position, the Spartans should be concerned about the Utes' punt-return unit, due in large part to the speedy Shaky Smithson.

Smithson leads the Mountain West Conference and ranks fourth in the nation with a 26.6-yard punt return average. He won his second consecutive MWC special teams player of the week award after returning four punts for 140 yards - including a 73-yard touchdown - against the Lobos.

"You really don't want to think too much," he said. "You just want to execute whatever the coach calls. And I know my teammates are going to make great blocks, and all I have to do is run the ball, then just make a couple people miss. All the great special teams players just make a couple of people miss."

Utah's No. 13 ranking is its highest since defeating Alabama in the 2008 Sugar Bowl and ending the year at No. 2 with a 13-0 record. It has won 19 consecutive home games and 30 of 31 overall against unranked teams.

San Jose State (1-2) is averaging 11.0 points - third-fewest in the FBS - and will likely need to find a way to put points on the board if it wants to keep up with the Utes, who are scoring 40.3 per game.

The Spartans picked up their first win of the season by beating Southern Utah 16-11 on Lamon Muldrow's 6-yard touchdown run with 1:10 remaining last Saturday night.

Utah will be the third Top 25 opponent for San Jose State in 2010 after losing 48-3 at No. 1 Alabama in its opener and 27-14 at 11th-ranked Wisconsin the following week.

The Spartans have lost 15 straight against ranked opponents since beating then-No. 9 TCU in 2000.

The Utes lead the all-time series 5-1, with their only loss coming in 1974.

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