Utah Quarterback and Wide Receivers vs Arizona Secondary
Can Travis Wilson build on last week's thrilling win against a secondary that gives up 286 yards per game? He'll need consistency in the play calling and out of his receivers who had a good week last week against Stanford. Will this be the week we finally get to see Kenric Young have a ball thrown his way? While the passing game has been at least average or better three of the last 4 weeks, we're still waiting to see Wilson and company explode with a big game. Despite the recent success, the inconsistency still doesn't lend a ton of confidence.
The Wildcats start 3 seniors in the backfield led by Jared Tevis who has 94 tackles (second on the team), 8 tackles for loss, 3 sacks and a interception. Safety Jourdon Grandon has 65 tackles while hybrid backer/safety Williams Parks has 6.5 tackles for loss and 2 interceptions. The Wildcats don't pick off many passes, only having grabbed 8 interceptions on the year. There is talent, but they've given up a ton of yards.
Utah Running Backs and Tight Ends vs Arizona Linebackers
The running game with Devontae Booker has been slowed the past two weeks, but they've started finding him out of the backfield often. Arizona doesn't have the strongest front 6 and the Utes will likely go back to their bread and butter on the ground to try to wear out the Wildcat D with Booker's size. Tight end Westlee Tonga re-emerged last week, but his involvement in the offense has been very hit and miss this season.
If Nate Orchard has competition for the Pac 12 defensive player of the year award, it's coming from Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright. Wright has a ridiculous 117 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, and 12 sacks for a defense that gives up 158 yards per game on the ground. He is everywhere on the field and is a team leader. Former Utah commit Cody Ippolito has 33 tackles and 4.5 for loss while Jake Matthews has 29 tackles. This unit though, and the entire D, is led by Wright. He's a joy to watch.
Utah Offensive Line vs Arizona Defensive Line
After a tough week against the stellar Stanford D, the Utes's OL will be excited to take on an average Arizona front 3. They have 3 senior starters and are led by end Reggie Gilbert who has 30 tackles and 3 sacks on the year. Nose guard Parker Zellers is only 6-1, 247, hasn't done much in the stat column, and may have issues with Utah's big line. End Dan Pettinato has 2 sacks on the year.
Arizona Quarterback and Wide Receivers vs Utah Secondary
Quarterback Anu Solomon started out the season on-fire, throwing for big yardage week in and week out. The last three weeks things have slowed down for him and his completion percentage has dropped to 58%. He does have over 3000 yards on the year with an average of 306 per game to go along with 25 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions, but teams may be starting to figure him out. Solomon is a threat on the ground, averaging close to 31 yards per game. He does have a lot of options to throw to the ball to starting with Caleb Jones. Jones has 58 catches on the year for 79 yards per game and 8 touchdowns. Austin Hill is a big-bodied receiver who has hauled in 38 grabs and 4 TDs. The Wildcats have 8 different players with 20 or more catches this season, so you'll see Solomon spread it around.
The Utah secondary continues to round into form and is coming off their best performance of the year against Stanford. Eric Rowe has improved at the corner spot, while Hatfield and Thomas keep getting better. Marcus Williams no longer looks like a liability at the free safety spot and Brian Blechen is the glue that keeps it all together. The high flying Arizona passing attack will be a challenge, but the Utah DBs are really rounding gin to form.
Arizona Running Backs and Tight Ends vs Utah Linebackers
The Wildcats will use a two-headed rushing attack with senior Terris Jones-Grigsby (who may not play due to injury) and freshman Nick Wilson. TJG is a shorter power back at 5-7, 195 pounds who is averaging 59 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry. Wilson has been more of the work-horse though with 96.3 yards per game at a clip of 5.4 yards per carry and 9 touchdowns. He's also chipped in 12 catches with Jones-Grigsby has 11.
The loss of Gionni Paul could be a tough one to overcome for the Utes as he's the emotional leader of the defense and they just seem different when he's not in there. If Jason Whittingham does play, that will help, but he may be rusty. We know what we're getting in Jared Norris, and now Jason Fanaiak and Jacoby Hale should have larger role this week. Will be a big test against both the Arizona running and passing game though and they'll need to be sound in their assignments. Without Paul, the linebackers should take a step back.
Arizona Offensive Line vs Utah Defensive Line
Through 10 games, Arizona's line has given up only 22 sacks, doing a good job of keeping Solomon upright. They start seniors at the left tackle, center, and right tackle spots, to go along with a couple of juniors at the guard spots. Left tackle Mickey Backus is one of the best in the conference while right tackle Fabians Ebbele is a giant at 6-8. They're a solid run-blocking team as well, opening up holes to the tune of 185 yards per game on the ground.
Nate Orchard, Hunter Dimick, and company can make a legitimate claim as the best defensive line in the country. A nation leading 47 sacks, with a combined 25.5 coming from the two starting ends is a staggering number. They're slowing the run game as well consistently from the guys inside in Lotulelei, Ianu, Mokofisi, and Fauonuku, setting things up for the linebackers to make tackles. No reason to think they won't be putting consistent pressure on Solomon.
Tom Hackett's numbers continue to impress and the Ray Guy Award is pretty much locked up. He's averaging 46.8 yards per kick with 29 of those landing inside the 20. Andy Phillips continues to have a stellar season going 19-23 with a long of 50. Kaelin Clay hasn't taken a kick back since the Wazzu game, but continues to give the Utes good field position averaging 19.8 yards per punt return and 25.7 yards per kick return.
Davonte Neal has done a great job in the punt return game posting an average of 18.7 yards with 1 touchdown while Tyrell Johnson averages 21.6 yards per kick return. Kicker Casey Skowron is 17 of 24 on field goal attempts this season with a long of 49 (including the game winner last week against Washington). Punter Drew Riggleman is arguably the second best punter in the conference with an average of 45.7 yards.
Game Matchups: Utah vs Arizona
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