1. Andre Smith - The loss of Smith is brutal for Bama, but the timing of the loss will prove even more costly. There's no way Bama's offense can bounce back only days after losing their #1 lineman. Expect blocking assignments to be off all day. And JPW will be hurried and sacked far more than usual. If Smith were eligible, Bama would win. But he's not, and they won't.
2. Louie Sakoda, kicker - All-American (Unanimous). Hasn’t missed all season from 48 yards in. Won the Oregon State game with an FG with 00:00 on the clock... Cooler than icewater… when Utah gets inside the Bama 30, Sakoda scores. Period. Sakoda has killer punting stats on pinning opponents inside their own 10. Utah wins the kicking game.
3. Matt Asiata - This RB is a beast. He’s big, fast, and mean. Asiata will make at least one big play. He’ll convert some big third downs.
4. Brian Johnson - Most underrated QB in college ball? He’s definitely one of ‘em. Hand-picked by Urban Meyer as the successor to Alex Smith, this fifth-year senior is for real.
Has run very little this season (because of prior injuries), but has great speed and elusiveness. Equal to JPW in every category. 68 percent passer and can turn a busted play into a TD with ease.
5. Paul Kruger - Sophomore DE 6’5” 265. Very fast and athletic. Was an All-American QB in high school. Has redshirted and completed a two-year church mission.
The much anticipated match-up between Andre Smith and Kruger won’t happen. Look for big problems for JPW from Kruger’s side of the line.
6. Ute Defense - Whittingham is a “D” guy through and through. With Andre Smith gone, look for the Utah D to make a good showing. Utah D plays smash-mouth football… that’s been Coach Whit’s M.O. for 20 years.
They’ll have problems with Julio Jones, but the ’85 Chicago Bears D would have problems with JJ. This is an underrated SEC-quality defense.
7. Bama Letdown – I’m not fond of this “excuse”, but I think it has to be considered in this game. For Utah? This is one of the two biggest games in the history of Utah football. For Bama? This match-up is a major disappointment for both players and fans... Hey, just keeping it real.
8. Ute Receivers – Freddie Brown, Bradon Godfrey, and Brent Casteel could play on any SEC team. Brown can fly, and Godfrey and Casteel make circus catches all day long.
Bottom line: The loss of Andre Smith will cost Bama this game. Smith’s loss is huge. Timing will be off for the Bama O. Smith would have handled Kruger, but Kruger won’t be stopped by Smith’s replacement. With Smith's absence, I see Sakoda’s field position punting and deadly accurate FG’s being the difference in a tough battle... Utah by 3