ASU football is now 91 days away from its season opener, and 114 days from its Week 4 matchup against Utah. The Utah Utes are the defending Pac-12 champions, and they will certainly present problems for ASU football.
The most dangerous weapon Utah boasts heading into the season is its junior quarterback, Cameron Rising. Rising figures to be one of, if not the best quarterback in the conference next season.
He threw for 2,493 passing yards and 20 touchdowns in 13 games played last year. With Rising likely headed to the NFL following the 2023 season, ASU fans should expect to see the Utah quarterback on a mission.
It doesn’t bode for the Sun Devils, considering the common talking point this offseason has been ASU’s relatively unproven secondary. Nevertheless, coach Herm Edwards and company will have three weeks prior to their conference opener to figure out who will lead the Sun Devils’ defensive backs room.
Aside from containing one of the nation’s fiercest gunslingers, the ASU secondary will be tasked with defending some shifty Ute wide receivers.
The Utah spring game featured a lot of action for sophomore wide receivers Money Parks and Devaughn Vele. The one advantage ASU will have when facing Utah’s aerial arsenal is that outside of Rising, the rest of the Utes’ passing offense is rather young and inexperienced.
“They are coming along, and they are doing a great job and making sure they are attacking the ball and being aggressive,” Rising told Utah media following the team’s spring game. “They are taking ownership in winning the one-on-one battles, which is why they have gotten so much better over the past few weeks and owned everything they’ve got going.”
Rising was a part of the Utah team that brought down the Sun Devils last season, 35-21. He helped the Utes mount a comeback after trailing 21-7 at halftime.
Even with the Utes’ advantage at quarterback, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledged the importance of the young wide receivers developing prior to opening kickoff.
“It’s big. It’s big for Cam to have a guy [like Vele] that you have great chemistry with, and Solomon Enis is another guy that he has good chemistry with on the field,” Whittingham said after the spring game. “If Devaughn can stay healthy and continue to make plays, the plays he made all spring long, and carry that over to fall camp and into the season, he could have a big year for us.”
The expectation regardless of Utah’s development is that ASU will be outmatched on that side of the ball.
That’s why the Sun Devils’ offense will need to take advantage of the losses Utah suffered defensively. Despite losing some of their top defenders from a season ago, the Utes’ bring in some feisty, youthful linebackers.
The Sun Devil rushing attack will be crucial in controlling the pace of this game. With ASU up against a dominant quarterback, they will need to do everything in their power to shorten the game.
That’s where the offensive line, which is mainly transfers, will need to own the trenches. If the Sun Devils are able to control the pace of the game by methodically milking the clock, then ASU may have a chance to take down the defending Pac-12 champions.
ASU football fans should expect to see a heavy dose of graduate transfer running back Xazavian Valladay and redshirt sophomore running back Daniyel Ngata.
ASU fans are well aware their team thrived and survived on the legs of running back Rachaad White last year. In this meeting against the Utah Utes, the production of the running back room will again be life or death for ASU football.