Stanford (5-4, 3-3 Pac-12) vs. No. 23 Utah (6-3, 3-3)
Michael Peterson: Utah 20, Stanford 16
Utah could easily be 8-1, and had Kaelin Clay not infamously dropped the ball in an early celebration on the 1-yard line as he waltzed into the end zone (which Oregon subsequently picked up and ran 99 yards for its own touchdown), Utah could have led Oregon 14-0, and at least pushed the Ducks down to the wire. Last year, the Utes troubled Stanford’s defense with their wide-receiver screens and consistent running game, and though the passing game has been a struggle for them this year, Stanford’s banged-up front seven may not be able to slow down Devontae Booker. Additionally, an improved defense this time around for Utah should pose problems for Stanford offensively. The Card’s red-zone struggles continue and the game becomes a display of one program on the rise and another on the decline — with Stanford on the wrong end.
Do-Hyoung Park: Utah 23, Stanford 13
In case you’re not already familiar with my stance on Utah, I was the guy that predicted that they would win the Pac-12 South and upset Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship. That’s obviously not going to happen, but I’m still very high on Utah as a team regardless of how the quarterback situation plays out. Utah doesn’t ask much of its quarterback, and that’s apparent in how it kept winning despite the struggles of both Kendal Thompson and Travis Wilson this season. Utah operates under the 2012 Stanford mentality of “let’s just give the ball to our running back and mix in some quarterback runs and short passes.” It also helps that Utah’s running back is Devontae Booker, who is as bruising and fast as they come. Utah’s scary front seven will stop Stanford’s offense more often than not, and the option offense with whoever plays quarterback for Utah and Booker will be effective because of Stanford’s battered defensive line. Utah wins the trenches; Utah wins the game.
George Chen: Stanford 20, Utah 13
There’s no doubt that Utah is a really good team, with a nasty front seven and one of the conference’s best running backs in Devontae Booker. That being said, Stanford has never lost two games in a row under David Shaw, and despite how this season has turned out, I think the Cardinal will keep that streak alive this Saturday. The Cardinal’s conference titles have been flushed down the toilet, but Stanford is still fighting for bowl eligibility — that alone should give the players motivation for the next three games. I expect Stanford’s defense to return to form and play much better than they did against Oregon. I doubt Kevin Hogan and company will put up more than 30, but if they can find the end zone twice and tack on a couple of field goals, the defense will take care of the rest.
Jordan Wallach: Utah 20, Stanford 17
Like Do mentioned, it seems as if Utah’s offense this year is everything Stanford’s offense was over the last couple of seasons: a power running game with a complimentary passing attack. The drop off of the Cardinal’s rushing offense, which was the 22nd best in the nation last season but has dropped to 97th this year, is one of the main reasons behind the team’s red zone struggles (21 of Stanford’s 30 red-zone touchdowns in 2013 came on the ground) and the heightened pressure and increased responsibilities for Kevin Hogan. All in all, it’s safe to say the loss of downhill back Tyler Gaffney is the principal reason for the decline. Meanwhile, the Utes’ offensive success is mainly due to their sturdy downhill back Devontae Booker, which has minimized the need for their inconsistent quarterbacks to take the reins of the offense. This game will come down to execution, especially with the quality of both defenses, and unfortunately, Stanford has not shown that it can capitalize enough on its opportunities.
Ashley Westhem: Stanford 17, Utah 14
I decided to go with the Cardinal, not because I necessarily think that they can win but because I want to believe that the team can win. So when I saw that the spread for this game has Stanford winning by 7 points I was pretty surprised. There’s something about playing at Stanford Stadium that does wonders for the Card and hopefully the added motivation of every game being a fight for bowl eligibility and that this game is redemption for last year’s upset will be extra incentive to put on a show at home. Also, Stanford is coming off a bye week so in terms of preparedness, the Card have another advantage. Utah is by the far the more consistent team, however, so unless Hogan can gel the offense together and the defense can keep up their staunch efforts, it’ll be tough for Stanford to pull off the win. Tough, but doable.