Utah had a weekend that was the opposite of Arizona's, losing to Washington 34-15 in a hard fought game. The loss set the Utes' record at 4-6 (2-5 in Pac-12), which puts Utah's back against the wall if it hopes to play in a bowl game this season.
With two games left to play, Utah would have to win a home matchup against Arizona and a road game against Colorado in order to become bowl eligible.
Utah should try to attack the Wildcats with a strong running game, as the Utes will be sending out Travis Wilson. A true freshman, Wilson was the third choice quarterback for Head Coach Kyle Whittingham. The team started the season with Jordan Wynn at the helm, but lost him to injury. Utah then went to Jon Hays, who lost the job in favor of Wilson.
Because Wilson is young and inexperienced, the offense will likely be powered by senior running back John White IV. He is a power back who can cause problems for Arizona, specifically since the Wildcats' defense has struggled to stop backs of his caliber this season. White is averaging 84.6 yards per game, but figures to have more than that this weekend.
With Wilson at quarterback, Arizona may decide to test him and focus on stopping the run. Even though he hasn't been very effective, Wilson has a few receivers that are talented enough to make plays if the Wildcats decided to load the box. Jake Murphy, Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott are combining for just under 100 yards per game receiving, which is a big number for the trio.
On the other side of the ball, Utah presents a defensive line that may be the best the Wildcats have faced all season long. NFL prospect Star Lotulelei and Joe Kruger have combined for ten sacks this season. With Matt Scott returning from his concussion, Utah should be sending some pressure to try to knock him down early in the game.
Arizona will have to keep a balanced offense against the Utes defense. With it being Scott's first game returning to action, there may be a tendency towards running the football after Carey's masterful performance a week ago.
If the Wildcats decide to air it out, they will have to watch out for Ryan Lacy. He has been targeted quite a few times this season and leads the Utes in interceptions with two. In addition, Trevor Reilly should be all over the field, as he is the Utah leader in tackles.
In order for the Wildcats to win the game, they will need to keep a balanced offense and stop the run on defense. It could be that simple of a game plan, but the execution will need to be there if the Wildcats expect to pull this one out.
Players to watch:
#17 QB, Travis Wilson – The freshman quarterback should see plenty of one-on-one coverages. However, he needs to make throws in order to open up some extra running lanes and allow the offense to thrive.
#23 RB, John White IV – This will be White's last home game as a Ute. He wants to go to a bowl game and he will stop at nothing to get his team there. If Arizona cannot contain him, the game could get ugly.
#11 DT, Star Lotulelei – He is another senior that will be putting forth full effort and trying to get his team to a bowl game. Lotulelei is going to be a pain in Arizona's side all game and will be a major factor in the success of the Wildcats' offense.
#1 LB, Trever Reilly – Reilly is a player that can go unnoticed at times, but can really make an impact in games. He has made numerous third down tackles this season, showing that he can read plays and blow them up.
Keys to the game:
1. Stop the run: White is going to get 20+ carries in the game if it is close. He has big play potential and his success will likely decide the game. Stop the run and Arizona will be sitting in a pretty position.
2. Pressure: With a freshman quarterback under helm in a big, emotional game, anything can happen. It is in the Wildcats' best interest to get to him early and shake him up. It is likely that Arizona will make Wilson beat the defense, so it will be on his shoulders to control the offense.
3. Score early: The best defense against the run is a good offense. If Arizona can get up by more than a touchdown by halftime, Utah will have to speed up the game and will be apt to throw the football more, which is not the strong suit of the Utes.
4. Expel road woes: The Wildcats have played poorly on the road this season in two out of three games. They haven't won a game away from Arizona Stadium yet under Rich Rodriguez and one key to those games was not being able to overcome a rough environment. If Arizona can overcome the Ute fans, then it will be in a better position.
5. Block Star: With Scott coming off the concussion, the last thing he needs is to be hit multiple times during the game. The offensive line needs to make sure that he doesn't get back there and damage the quarterback. The offense thrived with B.J. Denker in the backfield, but the offense will have a better chance if Scott is behind center.