The Broncos will be the odds-on favorites to break Utah's 9-game bowl win streak on Wednesday night...but trust me, it's not going to be easy. The Utes have a wealth of experience on their team and some big-time playmakers to match. After the jump, I'll call out a few that you'll want to be watching for on the 22nd. Containing them will be a major key to victory for the Broncos.
Matt Asiata. RB
The senior RB hasn't lit up the college football world this year, but he averages a respectable 4.5 yards/carry and is definitely a receiving threat as well. At 5'11" and 220 lbs. Asiata can definitely pound the rock, so if the Bronco defense isn't prepared, Asiata can definitely hurt them in short-yardage situations.
Terrence Cain, QB
Terrance Cain, who henceforth shall be known as "T-Cain", is the backup QB for the Utes. Don't let this fact lull you into a false sense of security because T-Cain can play. With two starts this year (and two victories), the senior is much more game-ready than you might imagine. Couple that with a running ability and a healthy 70.8 completion percentage on the year, and the Broncos would be wise not to sleep on Cain.
Eddie Wide, RB
Wide only has a modest edge on Asiata in the rushing stats department, but knows how to score. With 11 TDs on the year, and representing a nice receiving target out of the backfield, the Broncos will need to make sure that someone (preferably Winston Venable) is up close and personal with him all evening.
Christopher is just a sophomore, but his big-play potential is that of an experience upperclassmen. Christopher led the Utes this season in receiving yards and notched three 100+ yard games this season as well. With a respectable 17 YPC average, Christopher can and will do damage to the Broncos if the DBs don't stay disciplined.
Shaky Smithson, PR
Smithson might be the most dangerous man on the field for the Utes. Named to six different All-America teams as a punt returner, Smithson is the national leader in punt return average (19.72), punt return yards (572) and 100-yard punt return games (4). With the problems the Broncos have had on special teams coverage this year...they will need to scheme to stop Smithson or he will take one to the house or at the very least give the Utes good field position all night.
Christian Cox, DE
Cox is already a household name in Bronco country after making a somewhat "bold" pronouncement a few weeks ago. Don't be fooled, though, Cox can at least back up his talk with solid on-field play. Cox was named first-team All-MWC this season after leading the Utes’ defensive linemen in tackles. Cox was also second on the team in sacks (four) and tackles-for-loss (7.5) and led the team last season in the sacks department.
Chaz Walker, LB
Walker went from walk-on to standout at linebacker for the Utes and was named to the All-MWC second team defense. Walker notched 103 tackles on the year and had four games with more than 10 tackles. Walker should be able to plug running lanes for the Utes...luckilly, we'll have Doug Martin running through said lanes.
Brandon Burton, CB
Burton was also named 2nd team All-MWC this year and is a formidable force in the secondary. He notched 46 tackles and hauled in 2 interceptions. No word on whether he gets the privilege of covering Titus Young or Austin Pettis yet, but if the Bronco receivers don't hit their marks, Burton could make them pay.
The Utes landed 3 O-lineman on the All-MWC first or second teams this season and will no doubt come to play. Billy Winn, Chase Baker, Shea McClellin et al, won't slice through the Ute O-line as easily as they did against most of their competition this year, so they better have their motors running on high all evening.
Kyle Whittingham, Head Coach
Chris Petersen will be lining up against a fellow Bear Bryant Award recipient for the first time ever on December 22nd, and Whittingham is (nearly) as good as they come. Whittingham has posted a very respectable 58-19 record as the Ute headman and often has his name bandied about for coaching vacancies like Petersen does. Whittingham won't roll over, and he'll make adjustments. The Broncos need to step on the gas from whistle to whistle.