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No. 14 Utah looks for 12th straight home-opening win

By The Associated PressSeptember 5, 2019
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham greets fans after defeating BYU at an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Provo, Utah. Utah defeated BYU 30-12. (AP Photo/George Frey)
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham greets fans after defeating BYU at an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Provo, Utah. Utah defeated BYU 30-12. (AP Photo/George Frey)

Northern Illinois (0-1) at No. 14 Utah (1-0), Saturday at 1 p.m. EDT (Pac-12 Network).

Line: Utah by 21 1/2.

Series record: Utah leads 1-0.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Utah is looking to extend its home-opener winning streak to 12 straight and make a push into the Top 10. Northern Illinois is seeking its first win over a ranked non-conference opponent since 2003.

KEY MATCHUP

Utah’s backfield vs. Northern Illinois’ defensive line. The Utes ran all over BYU last week, especially after halftime, and have enough depth and talent at running back to do it every week. Still, the Huskies present a much tougher run defense that held Utah in check on the ground a year ago.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Northern Illinois: LB Antonio Jones-Davis and LB Kyle Pugh. The Huskies’ star linebacker duo will be counted on to limit Utah’s top playmakers Britain Covey and Zack Moss from doing damage beyond the line of scrimmage. Jones-Davis and Pugh combined for 225 tackles last season.

Utah: WR Jaylen Dixon and WR Demari Simpkins. Northern Illinois has a stout enough run defense that the Utes may be forced to stretch the field on various drives. Expect Tyler Huntley to target Dixon and Simpkins on deep routes to loosen up the defense. If they can deliver, it could open things up for the Utes’ offense.

FACTS & FIGURES

Northern Illinois has not allowed an opposing player to rush for 100 yards or more in the last 16 games. . Utah is 24-1 in regular season non-conference games since joining the Pac-12. . Jones-Davis needs 12 tackles to reach 200 for his Northern Illinois career. . Moss is 158 yards away from moving into second place on Utah’s career rushing yardage list. . With a win, the Utes would start 2-0 for the seventh consecutive season. . Ross Bowers’ 299 passing yards were the most by a quarterback making his first start for Northern Illinois since 2008. . Utah led the Pac-12 in rushing offense in week one with 262 yards. . Huntley needs 38 passing yards to move into the Top 10 on Utah’s career passing list.

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