Utah (4-2) at Arizona (3-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 19, 10 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Arizona Stadium (57,400) -- Tucson, Arizona. Television: ESPN2 or ESPNU. Home Record: Utah 3-2, Arizona 2-0. Away Record: Utah 1-0, Arizona 1-2. Neutral Record: Utah 0-0, Arizona 0-0. Conference Record: Utah 1-2, Arizona 0-2. Series Record: Utah leads, 20-16.
GAME NOTES: The Utah Utes will try to provide an encore to their stunning upset of Stanford this weekend when they head to Arizona Stadium for a Pac-12 battle in the desert with the Arizona Wildcats.
There weren't many people who gave the Utes a shot last week against then No. 5 Stanford. That didn't stop Utah, which stunned the Cardinal with a 27-21 upset victory at home for its first victory against a top-five team since 2009. Utah now owns a 4-2 overall mark this season but is still back in the league standings with a 1-2 ledger in conference play.
As for Arizona, it is struggling, taking losses in its last two games which were also league affairs. Most recently the Wildcats were dispatched by USC and its interim head coach Ed Orgeron, 38-31, last Thursday night. Arizona is still holding onto a record above .500 overall (3-2) but at 0-2 in-conference, has a ton of ground to make up in the Pac-12 South standings.
Ka'Deem Carey rushed for 204 yard and scored a touchdown to lead the Wildcats to a 34-24 win over Utah last season. Utah still leads the all-time series, 20-16.
Like so many teams in the Pac-12, Utah has been a tough team to stop on the offensive side of the ball. The Utes are scoring a healthy 37 points per game, ranking among the top 35 teams in the country in total offense (470.2 ypg).
Travis Wilson may be prone to a mistake or two every game but he has been fearless under center for the Utes. Wilson as thrown for 1,640 yards and 13 touchdowns while rushing for 283 yards and five more scores. However, Wilson's playmaking ability has sometimes been a negative as he has forced a few too many passes and has been picked off 10 times. Still at a 61.7 percent completion rate, Wilson has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
Bubba Poole was the real story behind the Utes' win over Stanford. Poole rushed for 111 yards and also had a career-high 75 yards receiving. Poole has just two 100-yard efforts in his career but leads the Utes in rushing yards (441) and carries (85). Poole's efforts against Stanford in the passing game were not totally out of the ordinary as he is second on the team in receptions (22, 195 yards) this season.
The leading receiver for the Utes is Dres Anderson. The junior wideout is an explosive threat that is leading the Pac-12 by averaging 21.1 yards per reception. In all Anderson has pulled in 28 passes for 592 yards and five scores. Sean Fitzgerald (20 receptions, 296 yards, three TDs) is the third and final member of the team with 20 catches on the campaign.
Utah's strength on defense has been its ability to get to the quarterback. The Utes lead the Pac-12 and are tied for sixth nationally in sacks (20). There has been no dominant pass rusher with 10 different players having at least one quarterback takedown. However, the Utes are not so productive overall, ranking among the bottom three teams in the conference in total defense (403.2 ypg).
That defensive unit will be dealing with one of the stronger running offenses in the country. Arizona is averaging 262.2 yards per game on the ground, ranking second in the Pac-12 and 14th nationally. However, the passing game has not been able to balance the tide for the Wildcats, who have a conference- worst 808 total pass yards.
With a running back like Ka'Deem Carey it is easy to see why Arizona prefers the run. Head coach Rich Rodriguez's zone-read offense has been very kind to Carey, who led the country in rushing last season and already has 569 yards and five scores this season, despite missing the opener. Carey had 138 yards against USC and has had at least 125 yards in every game this year. Daniel Jenkins (263 yards, TD) is a competent backup but has had a limited role.
B.J. Denker had his best outing of the season against USC as he threw for a career-high 363 yards and four touchdowns, while completing 28-of-44 pass attempts. Denker nearly doubled his passing output for the season in the game as he now has 808 yards and six scores on 54.5 percent passing. Denker's rushing was severely limited in the loss as he had a negative yardage total. In all Denker has 276 yards and a team-best six rushing touchdowns.
Garic Wharton (10 receptions, 190 yards, two TDs) had both of his touchdowns and a team-best 73 yards against USC but there has not really been a receiver that has separated himself as the go-to option with Austin Hill gone for the year.
While the offense has seen a bit of regression from last season, the first under Rodriguez, the defense has seen some improvement. The Wildcats are letting up just 19 points per game and ranks sixth in the conference in total defense (377.2 ypg). Last season the Wildcats were dead last in that category, surrendering nearly 500 yards per game.
The Wildcats don't create as much pressure as Utah (four team sacks) but thanks to Tra'Mayne Bondurant (three INTs) they have one of the better turnover margins (+5) in the league.
It may seem odd to favor a team without a win in conference play against squad that just knocked off a team like Stanford. However, Arizona is a much better team than its 0-2 league record would indicate and at home. If Denker provides the same type of offensive success as he did last week and Carey continues to pile up yards, the Wildcats will get the win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arizona 40, Utah 30
10/16 10:41:15 ET