The Utes travel to Air Force for arguably their toughest road of the year...
Utah vs TCU- Position Battles
Jordan Wynn vs. Andy Dalton
Dalton has more career wins than any other quarterback in the country. He's about as efficient as they come with a very good 16 to 5 TD to interception ratio, while his ability to pull it down and run with the ball (6 yards per carry) makes him an elite quarterback. Wynn has been hot and cold the last few weeks. The TCU defense he saw last year was the best he's seen so far in his career, and this unit is even better. Wynn's play is more important to the outcome of the game than any other player.
Matt Asiata, Eddie Wide, and Shawn Asiata vs. Ed Matthews, Matt Trucker, and Luke Shivers
The Horned Frogs move the ball better on the ground than Utah putting up 270 yards a game, while the Utes are at 191 per game. Matthews is a small back who isn't going to push the pile, but lit up the Utes last year for 137 yards on 12 carries. Trucker is the power back who uses his linemen well and Shivers is a solid fullback. Wide and Asiata each went over 20 carries last week in putting up almost 200 yards and are going to need similar numbers to beat TCU. The Ute backs are much better catching the ball out of the backfield than TCU's runners, which brings this battle to a draw.
Jereme Brooks , Luke Matthews, Shaky Smithson and DeVonte Christopher vs. Curtis Clay, Antoine Hicks, Jeremy Kerley, and Jimmy Young
TCU has one of the fastest groups of wide receivers in the country, while the Utes aren't far behind. Kerley is a burner and one of the best playmakers in the country who will stretch the field. Young has had a down year this year, but is a very reliable possession receiver. The freshman Boyce leads the team in receiving yards and averages almost 16 yards per catch. The Utes counter with their possession receiver in Jereme Brooks who got back on track last week with 6 catches. Shaky Smithson and Luke Matthews have been big-play guys with Matthews really emerging the last three weeks. The X factor is going to be the health and play of DeVonte Christopher. The Utes were not nearly as good last week with him sidelined. He needs to be at full strength and have a good game for Utah to stay with the Frogs.
Kendrick Moeia vs. Evan Frosch
Neither Frosch nor Moeia has a ton of catches this year. Frosch is a better blocker, but Moeia has turned into a pretty good downfield threat at the tight end spot, especially in the absence of Brad Clifford.
John Cullen vs. Marcus Cannon
Cannon is the best left tackle in the conference and one of the best in the country. He's got first round pick written all over his 6'6" 350 pound frame. Christian Cox won't have much fun getting around him. Cullen's not in Cannon's realm, but can still get the job done. He'll have his hands full with Wayne Daniels.
Caleb Schlauderaff vs. Kyle Dooley
Kyle Dooley is probably the second best left guard in the conference. The problem is that Schlauderaff is hands down the best guard in the conference. He'll be looking to rebound from a performance at Air Force that was not up to his standards.
Zane Taylor vs. Jake Kirkpatrick
You're not going to find two better centers in the conference, and you might not find two better centers in the country. These seniors are as good as it gets and are like second quarterbacks on the field. Both are in the NFL next year.
Tevita Stevens vs Josh Vernon
Vernon has 20 career starts, has very good foot speed and is a tremendous pulling guard. Stevens gets down to block faster than any other Ute offensive lineman and is getting better each game. I really wanted to give this to the ever improving Stevens, but it's too close to call.
Tony Bergstrom vs. Zach Roth
Roth is a giant at 6 foot 6 inches and 316 pounds. He's a very good pass blocker and the best right tackle in the conference. Bergstrom is one of the best right tackles in the conference, but isn't in Roth's league yet.
Junior Tui'one, Christian Cox, and Derrick Shelby vs. Stansley Mopanga and Wayne Daniels
Now that Shelby is healthy he's looked like the Utes' best defensive end, especially in pass rush situations. He's going to need to get some pressure on Dalton, because Cox and Tui'one aren't going to be able to. Daniels is the best end in the conference. In his first year out of Jerry Hughes shadow, he's shined with 5.5 sacks.
Sealver Siliga and Dave Kruger vs. D.J. Yendrey and Cory Grant
Yendrey is stepping in for the injured Kelly Griffin and will be making his third career start. Grant is arguably the best tackle in the conference and is going to be a load for Taylor and the guards to handle. He's a big kid at 6'2" and 305 pounds. Kruger and Siliga were huge in the Utes' win last week. Their play is going to go a long way towards determining whether TCU can run the ball or not.
Chad Manis, Matt Martinez, Chaz Walker vs. Tanner Brock and Tank Carder
Normally three against two would work to the advantage of the three. Not in this case. Carder and Brock are the best linebacking duo in the conference, and might be the two best linebackers in the conference period. They're athletic, rangy, and make play after play. If you want to see just how good Carder is, go back and look at the interception he had against BYU. Unbelievable. Manis is a bit nicked up and may be a game time decision. The Utes are very thin at linebacker with Boo Anderson as the backup at ALL THREE SPOTS. They absolutely need Manis on Saturday.
Brandon Burton and Lamar Chapman vs. Greg McCoy and Jason Teague
Teague and McCoy are the corners for the top pass defense team in the country and have 9 pass breakups between them. They didn't have their best game last week, but Burton and Chapman are the best duo in the conference, due to Burton's lockdown ability and Chapman's versatility.
Justin Taplin-Ross and Brian Blechen vs. Alex Ibiloye, Tejay Johnson, and Colin Jones
This might not only be the best safety group in the conference, but they might be the best in the country. Johnson is an All American candidate and Jones is a terror getting into the backfield. As good as they are against the run, they've been even better against the pass. No one has been able to pass on these guys all year. The safety play for Utah was abysmal last week, despite Blechen was the MWC Player of the Week with an interception and fumble recovery. The problem was he was out of position a lot of largely responsible for all three Air Force touchdowns by taking bad angles and/or over-pursuing. Taplin-Ross was pulled in last week at one point for poor play. Both need to be much better than they were last week and much closer to how they've played throughout the season.
Joe Phillips vs. Ross Evans
Another close battle where we're splitting hairs. Phillips missed his first kick of the year last week, but had made 18 straight before that. Evans is perfect on the year going 6 for 6 and is very steady. Because the game is at home and Phillips is used to the field he'll be kicking on, he gets the small edge.
Sean Sellwood vs. Anson Kelton
Sellwood's punting average has been dropping in recent weeks down to 42.5 yards per kick while Kelton comes in at 41.8 per kick. While they're pretty close in average, Sellwood's ability to pin opponents inside the 20 consistently is superior.
Shaky Smithson and Reggie Dunn vs. Jeremy Kerley and Greg McCoy
Are these the best return units in the country? Utah is first in the country in punt return average while TCU is 19th. TCU is 10th in kickoff returns while Utah is 16th. Smithson and Kerley could be your first and second team All American returners.
Totals- Utah 5 TCU 6 Even 6
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