The Utah Utes are always a solid defense, and head coach Kyle Whittingham knows his stuff. That's why they've had success and made BCS Bowl games, even after the Urban Meyer era.
But welcome to the Pac-12.
The Utes (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) are fighting with Arizona (2-6, 1-5) to avoid spending time with the Colorado Buffaloes in the cellar of the league.
When Utah's defense meets Arizona high-octane offense Saturday, the numbers aren't looking so hot for the Utes. And it's all because of UA quarterback Nick Foles. Erh, really it might just be because Utah's defense isn't very good against elite quarterbacks.
Utah's victories this season came by way of playing teams with average-to-bad signal callers. The Montana State win? Not going to touch it. BYU? Yeah, then-starting QB Jake Heaps was benched a few games after the Utes beat up the Cougars. A victory against Pitt? Yeah, the two Panther quarterbacks went 9-for-30.
Coming off a victory against the Oregon State Beavers, it's perhaps the best win of the year for the Utes as far as the quality of their opposing quarterback. And Sean Mannion is a redshirt freshman.
All four of the Utes' losses came against teams with pretty damn good quarterbacks. Matt Barkley's Trojans beat the Utes 23-14. Keith Price of Washington drubbed Utah for 226 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-14 Husky win. Arizona State's Brock Osweiler went for 325 yards and three touchdowns. The California Golden Bears got their first Pac-12 victory of the year behind so-so quarterback Zach Maynard -- correct me if I'm wrong, but he's not even very good.
Foles might have a field day.
Apparently, Utah likes to have its cornerbacks push up against the line of scrimmage. Against Arizona's spread offense and talented receiving core, that doesn't sound like a good idea. Juron Criner and Gino Crump can probably out-physical the Utes at the snap, and should that happen, the pressure will be on Utah's safeties to pick up the slack and prevent Foles from finding his guys deep.
And it makes my not-so-savvy football mind wonder if cramping Arizona at the line could get things very congested with the Wildcats' screen plays and quick throws, too.
OK, to be fair, Utah's passing defense, numbers-wise, is the third best in the Pac-12. But looking at the level of the opposing quarterbacks that Utah has faced, that number could very well be skewed.
If anything, Foles will get his. Of course, punching it into the end zone is a whole other story for the Wildcats.