Arizona vs. Utah prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins Saturday night’s matchup between the Wildcats and Utes.
When: Saturday, Oct. 8 – 10:00 p.m. ET
Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah
TV Broadcast: FS1
Rich Rodriguez’s team had seemingly bounced back with two straight wins after losing its season opener to BYU. But in the last couple of weeks, the Wildcats have gone up against two conference opponents and have come up empty in those meetings. After falling to then-No. 9 Washington, Arizona lost on the road at UCLA last weekend, 45-24. The Wildcats led the Bruins for about two minutes in the first quarter and trailed the rest of the way.
It’s been a different story for Kyle Whittingham’s Utes. They started their 2016 campaign out with four straight wins. After picking up its first Pac-12 win of the season in Week 4 over USC, Utah went on the road to Berkeley to take on Cal last week, ultimately to fall, 28-23. Utah took the lead midway through the third quarter and held onto it for about three minutes before ultimately falling to Sonny Dykes’ team.
The all-time series between these two is extremely close. The Utes lead it, 20-19-2, and they’ve won the last four meetings. Last year’s matchup finished with a 37-30 win for Utah in Tucson.
What To Know About Arizona
Rich Rod just can’t seem to catch a break. First, he lost Anu Solomon to an injury. Then Brandon Dawkins left the game versus UCLA with a rib injury. Rodriguez had to burn the redshirt on freshman Khalil Tate, and the 17-year-old quarterback responded by throwing for two touchdowns and 72 yards. He also rushed for 79 yards. He seems to be a better option than walk-on Zach Werlinger.
On top of that, J.J. Taylor is out with a broken left ankle. Nick Wilson is also nursing an ankle injury. That means Tyrell Johnson is going to hear his name called a lot because Arizona’s three top rushers are all hobbled. Zach Green will also get some of those touches. Surely, the Wildcats will try and throw a little bit, but it’s about putting Tate in the most comfortable position possible to make smart plays with the football.
What to Know About Utah
Armand Shyne and Zack Moss did the heavy lifting for the Utes in the close loss to Cal last week. They combined for 165 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 44 carries. But the passing game wasn’t able to deliver any scoring plays. Quarterback Troy Williams completed 24-of-43 passes for 266 yards, and he seemed to connect with Raelon Singleton, who reeled in seven of those completions for 98 yards.
Defensively, the Utes have a few guys playing well right now. Sunia Tauteoli has done it all this year. He’s picked off passes, forced a fumble, picked up a sack and totaled 37 tackles, which leads the team. Cody Barton is an anchor in the second level, and Utah is ranked No. 23 in total defense right now (324.4 yards per game).
Offense: Utah – Arizona has way too many injuries. This goes to the Utes.
Defense: Utah – The Utes have some ballhawks roaming throughout that defense. They get the edge.
Special Teams: Utah – Andy Phillips is a great kicker, and Boobie Hobbs is patiently waiting to return a punt back to the crib.
Coaching: Utah – Rich Rod is a fine head coach, but he has too many banged up players to deal with right now. Kyle Whittingham is also a solid head coach, and his team isn’t limping in sync right now.
Matchup To Watch
Khalil Tate vs. Himself
A lot can go wrong for a young quarterback — especially on the road. Coach Rodriguez will put Tate in situations to be successful. That means Arizona will run the ball a lot, and Tate will be given a ton of one-read looks. He flashed a nice touch, but Tate can’t allow himself to get greedy and force the ball into double coverage. All he has to do is put the ball where only his guy can get it. That’s it. Tate needs to rely on his playmakers the play calling. Don’t overthink, just do.
Spread: Utah -9.5
Arizona vs. Utah Prediction
Tate will be okay. The Wildcats will lose this game, but he won’t be the reason. Troy Williams will have a better outing than he did against Cal. He’ll throw a couple of touchdown passes in this one, and Utah will take the lead early. The Utes will hold onto it through halftime and continue to drain the clock with Shyne and Moss. Utah will mix up its blitz packages a little bit and put pressure on Tate, who will respond okay but won’t be able to do much with hands in his face all day long. The Utes win by 10.
Arizona vs. Utah Score Prediction: Utah 31, Arizona 21