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Utah’s Prodigal Sons

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A Preview of Stanford’s Return to Salt Lake City

Stanford’s Utah Boys
Stanford’s Utah Boys at Sydney Harbor
Photo by Houston Heimuli (@hheimuli)

This Saturday the Cardinal takes on the undefeated Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. Stanford recently found their footing again against teams like UCLA and Arizona State after falling to a tough, now ranked San Diego State and with the name Bryce Love arising in recent Heisman talk, Stanford stalwarts have a new found faith in the Cardinal upsetting the very physical Utes this weekend.

Ok, so maybe they aren’t prodigal sons but it is homecoming for the Utes, and it’s a homecoming for the group of six active Utahn Stanford athletes on the roster. Utah is the state with the largest representation of athletes on the Cardinal roster this season, after California and Texas. Dalton Schultz and Brandon Fanaika are important offensive pieces, both Utahns will be key in this clash with the stingy Ute defense. Sean Barton was a powerful defensive piece this season and will be a reliable leader in the Cardinal defense next year. Freshmen like Gabe Reid (OLB), Houston Heimuli (FB), Sione Lund (RB) will all be future assets to Coach Shaw. Aside from these six players are three more Utah boys currently serving LDS missions (WR Simi Fehoko, DE Tangaloa Kaufusi, and OLB Levani Damuni).

Lance Anderson, defensive coordinator, and devout Mormon is instrumental in recruiting Mountain West talent and paved the way for the Stanford to pipeline these recruits after their two-year missions. Coach Shaw has said that he the staff not only supports the LDS athletes, but encourages them serving missions. Shaw says:

“We don’t feel like we have to eliminate [the possible recruits] that maybe go on a mission…we love to accept those because once we find the right people we don’t care how long it takes, we don’t care what it takes for those guys. The road we have to give them is sometimes very difficult and long, but when we find the right guys it’s all worth it.”

Shaw believes in taking “the long view” and these young men from the Beehive State absolutely fit into that mold.

Freshman Houston Heimuli was asked about what he was most excited for in coming home to play Utah and stated “being in that atmosphere at Rice-Eccles Stadium”. Heimuli went to the 2013 game in Salt Lake City when he was being recruited by Utah and went to the 2014 game at Stanford while on his official visit with Coach Anderson. “..In that atmosphere, beating Utah at [my] home will be awesome.” Utah DT Filipo Mokofisi is looking forward to catching up with high school classmate Sean Barton and when asked in an interview if he was surprised there are so many Utah kids being recruited by Stanford, said “We have very smart kids. I feel these kids fit the standard of Stanford.”

Since 1995 the two teams have met four times, Utah winning three of those games by a touchdown or less. The Utes undefeated in the series since joining the Pac-12. This game Stanford is favored -5.5 ATS.

Prediction

Stanford offensive has come alive at the right time this season, I feel better now than two weeks ago with the Cardinal taking on Utah. Love needs to be able to rush for 100+ yards, attack the line of scrimmage and score. If Stanford can make Utah respect the run, Costello feeds Schultz and the rest of the TE core with Schultz putting on a show for his hometown with 100+ yards receiving. Costello cannot throw picks and the O line needs to be able to withstand that Ute front. If they can do that I can see Love/Scarlett good for 2 TDs, Schultz good for a TD and Costello throwing for 100+.

Utah is hurting with starting transfer QB Huntley listed as questionable for this game. Good news is Utah’s #10 rush defense will have DE Bradlee Anae and SS Chase Hansen, both looking good after bumps and bruises earlier this season. Utah will run a 5-2 D to stifle Love, they’ll make Costello beat them in the air. I expect Stanford D to do the same, Reid with an INT - bet on the under at 50.5. Stanford with their first win against the PAC-12 Utes.

Saturday, October 7, 8:15 PM

@ Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah

Watch on FS1