In a battle of Top 25 teams, No. 19 Arizona Football (7-3, 5-2) faces a huge challenge this week as they welcome the No. 16 Utah Utes (7-3, 4-3).
The 2023 Arizona Football season may soon be drawing to a close; however, that doesn’t mean that our Wildcats are done. Far from it, in fact!
Returning home after a come-from-behind victory against Colorado in Boulder, the Wildcats return to the friendly confines of Arizona Stadium, where they will take on the visiting No. 16 Utah Utes.
Currently tied for third place in the Pac-12 Conference standings, the Wildcats control their destiny as they still have an outside chance to reach the conference title game. Unfortunately, the road won’t be easy as a few things will need to of course go the Wildcats’ way, and they also still need to win the games in front of them, starting with Utah.
Coming in, the Utes are a very talented and tough-minded football team, and even with their injuries, this is going to be a dogfight for the Cats. Arizona is considered the slight favorite in this one, and they will need to play a clean football game in order to get the win.
Overall, a lot will be riding on the line for the Wildcats as they look to strengthen their postseason resume, as well as set themselves up for a potentially huge finish to the 2023 season!
Getting to Know the details about Arizona Football’s opponent, the Utah Utes.
Team: Utah Utes
Conference: Pac-12 Conference
Current Record: 7–3 (4–3)
Head Coach: Kyle Whittingham enters his 19th season as head coach at Utah where he is currently 7-3 (4–3) on the year, and has the Utes playing competitively despite the multitude of injuries that they have endured this year.
And in his stellar career, Kyle has turned Utah into a consistent winner, and one of the best programs in the Pac-12 Conference. He has also proven to be one of the best coaches in college football.
Overall, he is 161–77 (99–60) as a college football head coach.
2022 Record: Finishing the 2022 season with an impressive, 10–4 (7–2) record. The Utes stunned the college football world, knocking off USC twice last season, most notably in the Pac-12 Title game as they secured their second-straight Rose Bowl appearance. Utah would lose to Penn State by a 35-21 final.
Key Returners / Starters:
The Utes use a bit of a balanced offensive attack, and overall, they have had to change their offense quite a bit this season, simply because of the injuries they have had.
And with no Cam Rising at quarterback still, the Utes have seemingly found a suitable replacement in Bryson Barnes. While he is no Rising, he can lead this offense, having thrown for 1,197 yards and 10 touchdowns to just seven interceptions on 103-176 (58.5 percent) passing.
Beyond that, he has proven to be a capable runner, rushing for 223 yards on 55 carries and three touchdowns.
Overall, this offense may not be high-powered; however, they can score some points and move the ball well, averaging 25.3 points and totaling roughly 355.1 yards per game. Arizona’s defense and physicality will be tested.
Using several weapons, Barnes likes to get the ball into the hands of its talented playmakers which include Money Parks, Devaughn Vele, and two-way star Sione Vaki among others.
Behind Barnes is a very skilled backfield. Using a few different backs, the Utes like to control the line of scrimmage and play in the trenches.
Using a mix of Ja’Quinden Jackson, Jaylon Glover, Nate Johnson, and Vaki, the Utes have several weapons to use and they are going to test the Wildcats up front significantly.
Gap integrity and making tackles upon first contact are going to be paramount for the Cats if they are going to win this one.
Not surprisingly, the Utes have one of the best defenses in college football once again as they are currently holding opponents to just 299.8 yards and 17.8 points per game.
Using a base 4-3 defense, the Utes like to mix its coverages using a bit of Cover 1, Cover 2, Cover 3, and Cover 4 to keep offenses guessing and off rhythm. Beyond that, they do play a bit of nickel as well.
Largely led by Levani Damuni, Karene Reid, Cole Bishop, Jonah Elliss, and Vaki among several others, this is a defense that is laden with several quality players and personnel, and this stout defense will challenge the Cats quite a bit!
Up front, Arizona’s offensive line is going to have a huge challenge in keeping Noah Fifita upright as well as open holes for its backs.
Guys like Elliss, Logan Fano, Keanu Tanuvasa, and Van Fillinger among others have done a great job in limiting opposing offenses in the rushing game, as well as pressuring opposing quarterbacks.
Together, Utah’s defense is holding opponents to just 85.6 yards rushing and has accumulated 30.0 sacks through 10 games.
In the secondary, the Utes are just as talented. Holding opposing offenses to an average of 214.2 yards per game, Utah’s secondary is very active and physical, and they will test the Wildcats a bit.
Playmakers like Bishop, Vaki, Zemaiah Vaughn, and Miles Battle more than hold their own in the secondary, and overall, Noah and Arizona’s offense will have to make smart choices as well as take care of the football this week.
If Arizona is going to win, they are going to have to be opportunistic in this one and take advantage when they can. Utah doesn’t make many mistakes on defense, so the Cats will have to be sharp!
Game information and details for Arizona Football:
When: Saturday, November 18th, 2023
Time: 12:30 PM MST
Watch: Pac-12 Network
Where: Arizona Stadium – Tucson, AZ (50,782)
Overall Series Record: 18-25-2 Utah. Having met several times in their collective history, this is a series that Utah has controlled of winning the last six straight.
Arizona did see a successful stint from 2012-15, where the Wildcats had won four straight games. Arizona’s last win was in 2015.
Last Meeting vs. Arizona: Last year in Salt Lake City, the Wildcats battled but unfortunately, they came up short, falling to the host Utes by a 45-20 final.
My Prediction: Utah 27 Arizona 23 – All good things must come to an end at some point, and unfortunately, I am not confident Arizona will win this one.
Yes, I am aware of Utah’s offensive inconsistencies and the myriad of injuries they have sustained; however, this is a great program that has won the last two Pac-12 Championships and they compete like none other. They are the gold standard in the Pac-12 and will be tough to beat, even at home.
I hope I am wrong, but their physicality will be the difference-maker in this one as the Utes hang on to beat the Wildcats in a close battle at home.