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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 17, 10 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rice-Eccles Stadium (45,017) -- Salt Lake City, Utah. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: Arizona 6-1, Utah 4-1. Away Record: Arizona 0-3, Utah 0-5. Neutral Record: Arizona 0-0, Utah 0-0. Conference Record: Arizona 3-4, Utah 2-5. Series Record: Utah leads 19-15-2.
GAME NOTES: The Arizona Wildcats will try to fight their way back to .500 in Pac-12 play this weekend when they face off with the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
A season of tremendous highs and devastating lows continued last week as Arizona's high-powered offense posted a 56-31 win over Colorado at home. The win puts Arizona at 6-4 this season, but came after a 66-10 rout at the hands of UCLA. The win makes the Wildcats bowl eligible after a one-year hiatus last season. The Wildcats made it to bowl games in three straight years before last season.
Utah could be on the outside looking in on the postseason with a loss in this matchup. The Utes lost 34-15 on the road to Washington last weekend to fall to 4-6 overall and 2-5 in league play. If Utah is unable to earn a bowl invite it would end a program record nine-season streak of bowl appearances.
Last season was Utah's first in the Pac-12 and when the Utes met up with Arizona for the first time as conference foes, they pulled out a 34-21 win on the road. With the win, Utah has a 19-15-2 advantage in the all-time series.
The up and down theme to Arizona's season has largely been a symptom of the high-octane offense that head coach Rich Rodriguez has put into place in his first season. The Wildcats have had games where their offense is virtually unstoppable. Arizona is behind only No. 1 Oregon in total offense (526.0 ypg) and scoring offense (37.9 ypg) this season.
It didn't matter at all for Arizona last weekend that starting quarterback Matt Scott was sidelined with a head injury, thanks to the play of running back Ka'Deem Carey. Carey had his way with the Colorado defense posting a Pac-12 and Arizona school record 366 rushing yards and five touchdowns. It was the highest total rushing yards by a player at the FBS level this season. After that performance Carey leapfrogged Kenjon Barner of Oregon for the top spot in terms of rushing yards in the conference (1,381). Carey has also scored 18 touchdowns, which trails Barner by just one for the most in the Pac-12.
Scott has been stellar this season under center, throwing for 2,848 yards and 20 touchdowns, while completing 62.7 percent of his pass attempts. In his absence, B.J. Denker stepped in and played well. Denker completed 12-of-14 pass attempts for 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It has yet to be announced whether Scott will be able to go on Saturday and if he does not, Denker will again fill in.
With Carey taking care of most of the offense, it was a slow day for what has been a productive group of receivers for Arizona. Chief among those pass catchers has been Austin Hill. The sophomore wideout has hauled in 62 passes this season for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns, all team-highs. He is one of only two receivers in the conference to have recorded more than 1,000 yards thus far. Dan Buckner (57 receptions, 716 yards, 5 TDs) has been an effective second option to Hill.
Due to the fact that its offense is constantly moving up and down the field at such a rapid pace, the Arizona defense has had to play a ton of minutes this season. The Wildcats are last in the Pac-12 in time of possession, averaging a little over 27 minutes per game. That has given opponents plenty of opportunity to pick up yards and points. The Wildcats are better than only Colorado in both scoring (34.6 ppg) and total defense (491.9 ypg).
Tons of time on the field has meant plentiful opportunities to produce for Arizona defenders. Jake Fischer has been one of the top contributors with a team-high 90 tackles this season. Tra'Mayne Bondurant leads the team in tackles for loss (11.5), while Marquis Flowers is just behind with 11.0 tackles for loss and a team-high 5.5 sacks.
Utah has not had nearly as much success on the offensive side of the ball as the Wildcats. The Utes are currently ahead of only Colorado (310.8 ypg).
The biggest weakness for Utah has been the passing game as the Utes have accumulated a conference worst 1,847 yards through the air this season. It hasn't helped that there has been zero consistency at the quarterback position not in performance but personnel. Jordan Wynn began the season as the starter but stepped down after two games. From there Travis Wilson and Jon Hays have been fighting it out to secure the starting gig. Wilson got the start against Washington and really struggled completing only 8-of-23 passes for 55 yards with an interception. Wilson has been the favored man under center as he has appeared in all 10 games this season and has more completions, attempts and a higher completion percentage (62.6).
For all the troubles the passing game has had, Utah can take solace in the fact that tailback John White has returned to form. After a slow start to the season White has put together a solid season with 761 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He rushed for 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Washington.
The reason Utah has been competitive is the defense. The Utes are the third best defensive unit in the Pac-12 in terms of yards allowed (346.3 ypg) and just behind that at fourth in scoring defense (23.2 ppg). Utah has done a good job of keeping teams out of scoring situations, with only 31 of its opponents possessions winding up in the red zone.
Utah is especially strong up front. Four different players have at least four sacks this season led by Joe Kruger (6.0). Trevor Reilly has 4.5 tackles for loss and a team-leading 57 overall. Star Lotulelei (33 tackles, 9.0 TFLs, 4.0 sacks) anchors the line inside.
Yet again it will fall to Utah's defense to keep the Utes in this game. That is a tall task against an explosive offensive group like the Wildcats. If Scott comes back healthy and Carey keeps it rolling that goal will be even tougher. However Utah has played well at home (4-1) and the Wildcat offense has not traveled well (0-3). The Utes should be able to steal a win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah 34, Arizona 28
11/14 10:39:34 ET
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