Arizona returns home this Saturday to host a Utah team that has had its own fair share of struggles in its inaugural Pac-12 season. The Utes have found the improved competition to be a bit more difficult to play against and, like UA, have only been able to come up with one conference win thus far.
Utah's offense has had its fair share of struggles in 2011. The Utes rank 10th in the conference at 23.3 points per game and they have difficulty moving the ball whether it is on the ground or through the air. As a unit, the offense is dead last in the Pac-12 in passing yards per game with 179.5.
At the quarterback position, Utah suffered the loss of its starter, Jordan Wynn, and has struggled to get its offense in any kind of flow with Jon Hays under center. Hays has completed 59 out of 106 passing attempts for 692 yards and five touchdowns, but has also thrown seven interceptions.
The Utes were already struggling when Wynn went down but now with the instability at quarterback, their offense has even more to overcome.
At wideout, Utah only possesses three players that have caught 20 or more passes this season, and just five that are in double digits. Its top target in the passing game has been junior Devonte Christopher, who leads the team with 24 receptions, 354 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Christopher is a reliable target and one of the few players Hays can count on consistently through the air.
Dres Anderson also adds to Hays' weapons in the passing game. The freshman has totaled 21 catches for 308 eight yards and is tied with Christopher for the team-lead in touchdown receptions with three.
The other target that gets plenty of looks in the passing game is tight end Dallin Rogers. A big body at 6-foot-3, 245-pounds, Rogers gives Utah a sizable target to utilize over the middle of the field. The junior has 22 receptions for 160 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the year.
Also look for players like wideouts Reggie Dunn and Luke Matthews to be involved in the passing attack in spots. Each player has reached the double-digit reception mark and both are averaging over 11 yards per catch.
Things haven't been any easier for the Utes on the ground either. They are ranked eighth in the conference in rushing yards per game with 126.8 and have only scored on the ground eight times this season.
Utah's leading rusher this season has been John White IV, who ranks second in the conference in yards on the ground with 915. White has been Utah's best offensive player this season as he has compiled four games of 100 yards rushing or more. The junior is coming off a huge game against Oregon State, where he scampered for 205 yards on the ground.
Unfortunately for the Utes, White is all they have in terms of a consistent runner. He has 178 rush attempts on the season, but the player with the second most opportunities on the ground is Tauni Vakapuna with only 17. They will occasionally use Dunn on the ground and he has 102 yards on only nine attempts, but 51 of those came on one play earlier in the season against USC. As a team, Utah is only averaging 3.7 yards per carry this season.
The offensive line has its fair share of difficulties in 2011 for the Utes. The unit has surrendered 22 sacks this year and the 3.7 rushing average ranks eighth in the conference. The struggles along the line have affected everything on the offensive side of the ball and with a key injury to Wynn at quarterback, the entire offense for Utah is a big question mark at this point in time.
Five Keys –
1. Attack Utah's backfield: This group doesn't pave the way for a great average nor does it keep its quarterback of his back enough. Going after the Utes in the same way the Wildcats went after UCLA could be equally effective.
2. Stack the box: White has been Utah's only consistent weapon on offense. If UA can shut him down, it will stop the Utes' offense in its tracks.
3. Force Hays into mistakes: If Arizona can get ample pressure on the Utah signal-caller, it will undoubtedly give the Wildcats' secondary some chances to make some big plays on defense.
4. Get Utah into third down situations: The Utes rank dead-last in the Pac-12 in third down conversion percentage (32.7 percent). If Arizona can prevent Utah from moving the chains on first or second down, it greatly increases its chances at halting the Utes' offense.
5. Be aggressive: Utah doesn't do the best job of holding on to the ball. There will be chances for UA's defense to take advantage of the Utes' mistakes and the Wildcats must do so to come away with the victory.
Utah Offensive Preview
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