When Utah Has the Ball
Travis Wilson is the man to watch this weekend. Over the past few weeks it's become clear that the Utah offense goes as he goes. If he's tossing interceptions the Utes will have a hard time winning, but if he's taking care of the ball and making plays both through the air and with his feet they'll have a great shot at getting to 5-2.
Wilson is 4-2 this season as Utah's starter and 7-6 overall in his career. He is currently ranked 17th in the country in total offense per game averaging 320.5 yards (273.3 passing, 47.2 rushing). Numbers like those should get most teams to 4-2 and could have the Utes at an even better 5-1 or 6-0 if not for a couple of games filled with INT's. Wilson has passed for at least 200 yards in all six games so far this year. He faces an Arizona team this weekend that allowed him to throw for a career-high 311 yards last season in a loss to the Wildcats.
Wilson's top target on the outside is wide receiver Dres Anderson. Through the first 6 games Dres leads the Pac-12 in yards per reception (21.1) and leads the team in receptions (28), receiving yards (592), yards-per-game (98.7), and touchdown receptions (5) – impressive stuff. Dres is currently 23rd in the nation in YPG.
Sean Fitzgerald has become a trusty target for Wilson ever since Kenneth Scott went down against Utah State. Fitz ranks 3rd on the team in receptions with 20 and is second in both receiving yards (296) and TD catches (3). Fitzgerald's biggest strength is his sure-hands. He's a guy Wilson knows he can go to on 3rd down and trust he'll make a catch whether he's open or not. He may not be a guy that will consistently burn the opposition downfield, but he's a guy that can go over the middle or find the sticks when it's most important.
James "Bubba" Poole really separated himself from the running back competition last week as he gashed the vaunted Stanford defense for 111 rushing yards. Poole has rushed for 100+ yards twice, his other game coming against Oregon State (117yds). Poole has started the last 4 games for the Utes and leads the team in carries (85), net rushing yards (411), and rushing yards per game (73.5).
Poole is a slippery runner. He doesn't hesitate when hitting a hole and always seems to find a way to fall forward. He's not a big runner and doesn't have a "bruiser" reputation, but he can damage a defense with his vision and ability to squirt through the smallest of openings. Poole will get the bulk of the carries against Arizona's stout rush defense. Through 5 games they've allowed just 169.2 YPG. They won't completely shut down the Utah rushing attack, against USC they allowed 249 net rushing yards and 3 touchdown runs, but they'll make things tough for Poole for 4 quarters.
Last week Utah's offensive line had arguably its best game of the season. At times things haven't been pretty, but they at least look like they're getting better. And why wouldn't they? The current starting 5 (Poutasi, Tofaeono, Jones, Salt, Aiono) has started every offensive snap in the last four games, an amazing stat. On the season the line has allowed just 8 sacks, an average of just 1.3 per game, and has totaled 28 pancake blocks. Keeping Travis Wilson upright, protected, and looking down field is what has allowed the Ute offense to explode for 7 pass plays over 50 yards and 9 total plays over 50 yards.
When Arizona Has the Ball
Arizona's going to run. It's what they do, especially with a QB like B.J. Denker back there. Denker was 8 for 21 through the air in week 2 against UNLV. 8 FOR 21!!!!!! Those are Taysom Hill numbers, and Denker doesn't have nearly the running ability of BYU's QB. Outsdie of the USC game where the Trojans called off the dogs and went into an overly conservative defensive set, Denker has been below average all season.
Ka'Deem Carey is alright. He led the country in rushing yards last season, and has been just as good, if not better, than last year. 142 yards a game and averaging over 6 yards per carry, he's a beast in every sense of the word as a runner. Carey combines great speed and power with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield with 12 catches, good for second on the team.
Arizona was hit hard in the offseason with player departures and injuries to the receiving corps. Freshman Samajie Grant is the leading receiver with 15 balls. He's a little guy at 5-9, but has tons of speed. You'll likely see Davion Orphey, Mike Honeycutt, and/or Justin Thomas trying to slow down Samajie. Will Orphey be able to bounce back after a tough week last weekend against Stanford?
Utah has already faced an offense than operates in a similar way when they played BYU. Denker probably isn't as good as Taysom Hill, but Ka'Deem Carey is better than Jamaal Williams. Arizona doesn't have the same quality of receivers as BYU, without a Cody Hoffman type, but there is plenty of speed. The Wildcats will spread it out more than BYU with more 3 and 4 wide receiver sets, but their going to run first and try to control this game on the ground.
Will Utah's defense be able to slow them down? Ute fans have to hope that a letdown isn't on the horizon, as a guy like Carey can go 75 yards quickly and put Utah in a hole. Utah is probably going to play more conservative this week, loading the box trying to keep Carey in check, and making Denker beat them with his arm. If he's successful, the Utah D could have trouble.
Yes. Denker isn't much of a throwing threat, but this offense is still explosive and will score points. Utah's defense is pretty good, but the Wildcats will still get into the end zone, and will make things tough on the Utes' D.
Utah Will Win If....
Gorringe- They win the battle at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Karren- They take care of the football (less than 2 turnovers should win the game) and avoid a mental and emotional letdown. Last week's win was nice, but the schedule doesn't allow for celebration. Utah needs to come in prepared and ready to play or they will get beat in a hurry.
Olson- They control the line sof scrimmage and keep Carey from running wild.
Swinney- They keep Ka'Deem Carey under 150 yards and don't let Arizona jump out to an early two score lead. The Utes have the better D. The Wildcats have the better O. This should be fun.
Gorringe- Utah 38 Arizona 23
Karren- Utah 34 Arizona 27
Olson- Utah 35 Arizona 34
Swinney- Utah 41 Arizona 35
Game Preview: Utah at Arizona
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