CAL (5-0) vs. Utah (4-0) 10:00pm
Notes: Teams played once since 2010 with Utah winning 49-27 in 2012.
The Bears have one of the most prolific offenses in college football led by a possible Heisman trophy candidate quarterback in Jared Goff. Goff has completed 70.2% of his passes for 1,630 yards with 15 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. CAL is averaging 43.4 points per game and will face a blue collar defense in the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City. The Bears have a pass first mentality that is averaging 358 yards through the air and puts pressure on opposing secondaries vertically. The Bears throw the football in order to open up the rushing attack and have added 169 yards on the ground this season. Running back Khalfani Muhammad leads the team with 350 rushing yards averaging 8.9 yards per carry along with one touchdown. CAL will look to start fast to see if they can get Utah in a high scoring game. Wide receiver Kenny Lawler has been Goff’s main target and has 27 receptions for 399 yards and 8 touchdowns. A cause of concern in this game could be the offensive line going up against a physical defensive front in Utah. This unit has allowed 12 sacks on the season and look for Utah to challenge them with blitz packages early in order to force Goff into quick throws.
The Bears defense has been a major surprise entering this game and has allowed 23.4 points per game to their opponents. The Bears are allowing 137 rushing yards per game and have allowed 249 passing yards through the air. That has been a major upgrade compared to last season’s mark of 367 passing yards per game which was one of the worst ranks in college football. CAL has done an excellent job at creating pressure and has 18 sacks on the season through the first five games. Last season, the team had 16 total sacks for the year! The team has been very opportunistic and is +8 in turnover margin and has been another area that the team has excelled in compared to last year’s overall margin of -3. Linebacker Jalen Jefferson leads the team with 26 total tackles and defensive lineman Kyle Kragen leads the team with 4 sacks.
The Utes are coming out of a bye week after a dominating road victory over the Oregon Ducks 62-20. The loss by Oregon was the worst home defeat since 1977 to the Washington Huskies. Utah will be challenged on Saturday night and will need to be control the tempo to control the time of possession against Goff and company. Overall, Utah is averaging 38.8 points per game and loves to pound the rock between the tackles with running back Devontae Booker who leads the team with 816 rushing yards (4.7 yards per carry) and 9 touchdowns. The Utes are averaging 204 rushing yards per game and Booker is a dual threat (15 rec. 149 yds.) that is utilized in the screen game by head coach Kyle Whittingham. Utah is throwing for 189 passing yards per game and has an experienced senior quarterback in Travis Wilson. Wilson is a tough quarterback who has great mobility along with great size standing at 6’7 and weighing 230 pounds. Wilson has completed 68% of his passes for 513 yards with 4 touchdowns and one interception. Wide receiver Britian Covey leads the team with 17 receptions and 182 yards with one touchdown. Covey is not afraid to go over the middle of the field and has great hands. He has shown a knack for finding holes in opposing secondaries and will be counted on this Saturday night to take the pressure off of the offensive line. This unit has done a fantastic job in protecting the team’s quarterbacks this season and has allowed 1 sack heading into this game this coming weekend.
Utah has a “blue collar” team that prides itself on physicality and the ability to wear down opposing offensive lines. This game on Saturday is contrasting styles of play and will put pressure on the Utah defense all night long. However, the Utes have done an amazing job of dictating tempo on the defensive side of the football and have allowed 18.8 points per game. It will be very hard for CAL to run on this defense as the Utes are giving up 134 rushing yards per game. Utah has 8 sacks through the first four games and is not as dominant as last season’s group that led college football with 55 total sacks. Linebackers Jarred Norris and Gionni Paul both lead the team with 32 total tackles and are the emotional leaders of the defense. Utah is +7 in turnover margin and will look to be opportunistic against CAL to give their offense great field position. Utah will want to force third down and long situations for force CAL into becoming one dimensional. Look for the Utes to take some chances early on utilizing blitz packages to get pressure on Goff and force him into underneath routes. Utah will want to take away the deep ball and force CAL to slowly work down the field.
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Joseph Lisi a former ABC Sports college football researcher, is the owner of www.GOFORTHE2.COM. He is a member if the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America),Maxwell Football Club and is currently the content editor at www.2FiveSports.com.He contributes regularly to www.Sid-Rosenberg.com and has been a featured guest every Tuesday night from 10:30-11:30pm EST on Yahoo Sports Radio With Ken Thomson(www.sportsxradio.com).
Joe has been featured on the FNTSY Sports Network and The Sid Rosenberg Sports Radio Show 640AM Sports (South Florida). You can follow him on Twitter: @Goforthe2.
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