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No. 23 Utah at San Diego State Preview

No. 23 Utah (8-2) travels to San Diego State (7-3) looking to turn things around after dropping two straight.  It wont be easy as they face a very tough and much improved Aztec team.

This isn't the same Aztec team that Utah crushed 38-7 at Rice-Eccles Stadium last season.  They have lost just three games by a combined total of 11 points.  Two of the three teams currently are in the Top 25 and all games were on the road.  If not for controversy over officiating they could have been possibly (9-1) on the season.

The Aztecs are coming off a tough loss where they nearly pulled off a major upset against No. 3 TCU.  After starting 14-0 they lost the lead but fought back and lost by five.  Just one week after TCU crushed Utah by 40.

For Utah to win this tough game, they will have to fix their offensive woes.  After a great start to the season, Utah's offense has struggled over the past two weeks.  In Utah's past two games, they are averaging just five points per game.  The offense is averaging just 232 yards per game, 171 through the air and 61 on the ground. 

Jordan Wynn returns to his hometown and Qualcomm Stadium, the place he played his best game as a Ute in the Poinsettia Bowl MVP.  He'll need a good performance if he wants to keep his starting job as has struggled over the past two games.

It wont be easy against a tough Rocky Long defense.  They rank 40th in scoring defense allowing 22.1 points per game and 44th in total defense allowing 348.8 yards per game.

Their defensive is a Rocky Long defense - it is what it is. It's hard-nosed with a heavy blitz scheme," Kyle Whittingham said in his press conference.  "He has been doing a good job with defense for a lot of years and this year is no different.

Despite Utah's recent struggles, the Aztecs say they aren't taking Utah lightly.

"I think they'll have their A-game, I don't think there's any doubt about it," SDSU Coach Brady Hoke said in his weekly press conference. "This is a conference game and that's always important. They have a lot of tradition and history. As a coach, you always try to embrace that."

Defensively Utah will have their hands full against another strong offense.  SDSU QB Ryan Lindley leads the MWC in passing completing 53.2 percent of his passes for 2688 yards on the season and 18 touchdowns.  

They also have a solid running game with freshman sensation Ronnie Hillman, who has already rushed for 1098 yards on the season.  Kyle Whittingham had high praise of Hillman.

He is very talented and not a lot different than some of the very good freshman we've seen in the league," Whittingham said.  "He's not a big back, he's elusive and extremely quick. He's exceptionally fast when he gets on the edge. To gain 1,100 yards as a true freshman is an impressive feat. He has an offensive line that's blocked well for him and a fullback in front of him who is doing a nice job. He has had a great year. He's a dangerous guy.

Run defense has been Utah's strength this season holding Dion Lewis under 100 yards and Air Force 116 yards under their season average at the time.  They rank 14th in rush defense allowing 112.6 yards per game.

For Utah to avoid losing a third straight game they will need to take care of the football.  In their two losses they lost the turnover margin 6-1. Utah outgained Notre Dame in total offense but turnovers put the defense in tough situations.  

They also need to make sure they don't fall behind early.  If Utah falls behind early, then additional pressure is put on Jordan Wynn to beat the Aztecs through the air.  In Utah's two losses they had to abandon the run game early to try to come back.  Wynn was unable to lead the team back.

Utah is a three point favorite to win the game.  It will be their final road game in the MWC before they leave for the Pac-12 next season.  Kickoff will be at 7:00 p.m. PT and will be on The Mtn.