Tucson, Ariz. • Arizona Stadium
Saturday, Sept. 11, • 7:07 p.m. (MST/PDT)
Radio: KCUB (Brian Jefferies, Lamont Lovett)
Television: Fox Sports Net Arizona (Dave Sitton/Larry Smith)
UTAH AT A GLANCE
Coach: Urban Meyer, 2nd season (10-2 overall)
2003 Record: 10-2 (Beat Southern Mississippi in the Liberty Bowl)
Site: Salt Lake City, UT Series Record: Utah leads the series . 17-15-2. They beat the Lumberjacks 37-3 in the 2002 season opener.
LAST TIME OUT: Arizona beat Northern Arizona 21-3. Utah beat Texas A&M 41-21
With instant success comes huge expectations. Urban Meyer replaced long-time Ute coach Ron McBride and promptly guided Utah to a 10-win season, capped with a 17-0 shutout of Southern Miss in the Liberty Bowl. To amp the excitement level, Utah returns a horde of starters on both sides of the ball, and gets another year to build upon Meyer's unique offensive approach.
WHEN UTAH HAS THE BALL:
Utah runs one of the most innovative offenses in the nation. It is a shotgun attack that mixes option runs and downfield throwing. Utah's offense uses a lot of misdirection and movement.
Quarterback Alex Smith is the key to the show. He is a player who can both run and pass, and can kill you with either skill. All he did against A&M is throw for 359 yards and three scores and run for 76 yards and a pair of touchdowns. If he has time to pass, he'll pick Arizona apart. The Wildcat defense needs to put pressure on the Utah quarterback.
Senior running back Marty Johnson is a more than capable runner. He may not be a star, but he keeps opposing offenses honest.
The Utes have a great receiving corps. They employ a lot of small, fast receivers who can do some damage in the open field. Paris Warren and Steve Savoy both gained over 100 yards last week and can turn a shot pass into something big.
Last week Arizona got great play out of their inexperienced defensive backs and will need the same from them this week. You can bet the Utes have a gameplan that will try and isolate their receivers on the Cats' rookie corners.
Arizona showed nothing a week ago on defense. They rarely blitzed and when they did it was conventional. In the spring and fall scrimmages fans were treated to a variety of blitz packages and I'd expect a lot of unusual attacks.
WHEN ARIZONA HAS THE BALL
The opening drive of the NAU game was a perfect example of what Arizona needs to do against Utah. They need to eat a lot of clock and keep their defense of the field. Expect the Wildcats to show a lot more in the way of plays, formations and movement. Last week the offense was vanilla, the Cats will have to be more ‘flavorful' if they hope to put points on the board.
Mike Bell will not get 31 carries, but should again be the focal point of the offense. Expect Utah to stack the line and try to force Kris Heavner to beat them through the air. Heavner was sharp against NAU, but made few big plays. He'll need to keep good care of the ball, while at the same time looking down field more.
Utah has a very good defense. They kept Texas A&M in check until late. They are more physical than they get credit for. Expect a similar defense as the one that played in Arizona Stadium two years ago, as Meyer kept Rich Ellerson's defensive coordinator after the coaching change.
Everyone seems to think that Utah is poised for a route. While Utah is good, they aren't exactly Oklahoma. Arizona can beat them, but have to play one heck of a football game. This is the game where we find out just how good (or bad) Arizona is. If the Wildcats hope to be a decent team they must play Utah tough. My guess is that they hang around, but probably don't have quite enough to win.
PREDICTION: Utah 27, Arizona 17