Stanford Cardinal Set To Square Off With Utah Utes

PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 30: Bryce Love /

The Stanford Cardinal are going for three-straight victories with the intent of upsetting the No.20 Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The Stanford Cardinal has a bit of a quarterback controversy brewing. David Shaw has two talented quarterbacks who can lead the offense – which isn’t necessarily a bad problem to have.

Ever since starter Keller Chryst, went down with a concussion, K.J. Costello has stepped in and has proven he can handle the responsibility of leading this Stanford offense.

Last week, Costello provided a spark in the passing game, throwing for 173 yards and one touchdown. His efficiency allowed Bryce Love to show off his power, running off several big plays on the ground.

By the final gun, Love had rushed for 301 yards — a school record for a single game.

Coach Shaw would perhaps, be wise to stay with the hot hand and stick with Costello after replicating his performance against UCLA after filling in for Chryst.

The only issue Costello could potentially face would be the pitfalls of starting on the road for the first time and learning to handle what should be a hostile atmosphere in Utah.

Do not underestimate Kyle Whittingham though, as the Utah Utes have been a dark horse in the Pac-12 South Division. The Utes may have just barely escaped last week with a 30-24 win over Arizona, but have plenty of talent on both sides of the football.

Stanford Cardinal Football
Stanford Cardinal Football /

Stanford Cardinal Football

Coach Whittingham will likely make a call at quarterback just before game time after starter Tyler Huntley, left the game last week with an injury.

His throwing arm was in a sling when he returned to the sidelines and backup quarterback, Troy Williams, took over.

Though Huntley has not been ruled out, Stanford should expect to see Williams get the start under center.

Unlike Huntley, Williams lacks the mobility to scrambling for yards and extend plays, which could benefit the Cardinal defense. But the defense cannot afford to over commit on pressuring Williams as he can run if needed.

Williams though, will more likely rely on the passing game to move his offense downfield.

With returners Justin Reid, Quenton Meeks, and Alijah Holder, the Cardinal appeared to boast the best secondary in the Pac-12.

So far, the pass defense is allowing about 255 yards per game, and the secondary should expect a barrage of air attacks. Reid had a standout performance last week with two interceptions and will look to contribute again.

The secondary must be aware of Utah’s standout receiver, Darren Carrington II, as he and Williams have known each other since high school. Williams will look to exploit their chemistry early with Carrington being a receiver who has made big plays for Williams in the past.

Carrington transferred to Utah after being dismissed from Oregon. As talented as he is, trouble appears to surround him. A failed drug test made him miss the trip to Oregon’s appearance in the College Football Playoff Championship against Ohio State in 2016.

Had he been in the game, the Ducks could potentially have prevailed.

He should be grateful for the second opportunity with Utah after blowing his opportunity to play for new Oregon coach, Willie Taggart. Carrington currently leads Utah receivers with 485 yards and four touchdowns.

The wide-out has NFL potential, but his character issues will likely keep teams from drafting him. At least, in the early rounds.

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Siaosi Wilson and Samson Nacua are also a threat, as both have over 100 yards receiving. Williams could target the two before unleashing the big play potention of Carrington to score for the Utes.

The Cardinal secondary could benefit from their familiarity with Carrington from his time in Oregon.

At tailback, Zack Moss is not as prolific as Love but can undoubtedly factor into the game should Williams have success in the air. Stanford is allowing about 190 yards per game rushing.

Last week, missed tackles let the running game and Arizona State’s offense stay on the field. Hopefully, the Cardinal clean up those mistakes and get the ball back to their offense.

For the Cardinal offense, Love may see less room to run than he did last week, as the stout Utah defense is allowing only 87 yards rushing per game. The Utes have been forceful in containing the rush in seasons past and Love may find it difficult to produce the yards he did against the Sun Devils.

Utah’s defense features a talented trio in Sunia Tauteoli, Casey Hughes, and Corrion Ballard and all three will be looking to disrupt the Stanford offense.

No matter who starts at quarterback for Stanford, the passing game needs to be effective if they want to give themselves a chance to win. The Cardinal do not necessarily need a big throws downfield, but rather, can be effective with short passes that will allow their receivers to gain yards after the catch.

Costello’s success last week in the air was critical in allowing Love to break off big plays on the ground. Should the two ingredients come together again, Stanford will walk out of Rice-Eccles Stadium with a win.

Stanford is no stranger in knowing the feeling of being upset. The last time Stanford played at Utah was in 2013, a 27-21 loss to the No.5 team in the country. Since joining the Pac-12, the Utes have beaten the Cardinal twice in the two matchups.

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A new opportunity arises for Stanford to keep their winning streak going before back-to-back contests against the Washington schools.

For now though, the Cardinal must focus on the task at hand by playing a physical game against the Utes on the road.