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Arizona vs. Utah: Physical Utes come to Tucson looking to take down Wildcats

Utah's coming off an impressive win against Stanford, but can they bring that with them on the road?

George Frey

No doubt, the Utah Utes have easily the most impressive win in the Pac-12 to date after taking down the then No. 5 Stanford Cardinal at Rice-Eccles Stadium last week.  The win is also the most impressive for the Utes since joining the Pac-12 three years ago.

But will they be able to ride that momentum into Arizona Stadium this weekend and establish themselves as contenders for the South Division championship?

Check out Block U for complete coverage of the Utes

The Utes are a physical team, the kind of team that could give the undersized Arizona Wildcats a lot of problems.

"There's a lot of grown men we'll be playing against Saturday night," said head coach Rich Rodriguez.  Coach also said that the Utes have five guys that are at least 25 years old.

"They've played well all year," continued Rodriguez.  "They're probably playing their best football right now."

"They're physical, they play hard," added wide receiver Garic Wharton.  "But I feel like we practice harder and work harder.  We definitely expect to win."

Utah offense

Former Arizona State and Miami head coach Dennis Erickson is the co-offensive coordinator at Utah now, and Rodriguez said that he can see his influence on the offense on the game tape.

"You can tell it's him," said Rodriguez.  "There's certainly Dennis Erickson's deal with spreading you out, throwing the ball to the perimeter, a lot of movement with the tailbacks out of the backfield, going empty sets, and they push the tempo more too.  They're going faster than they were last year as well."

Utah QB Travis Wilson has averaged 273 yards passing per game this year, to go with his 13 TDs and 10 INTs.

"There's a guy who was a young guy last year and had some success, but he's even better this year," said Rodriguez.  "He's a big physical guy that can run, got a strong arm.  He's really taken to some of the new stuff they're doing."

"I thought offensively they executed as well as they had all year against a really, really good defense in Stanford.  Their quarterback played well, they ran the ball well.  They really did what they wanted to do offensively."

"They're big," added Reggie Gilbert.  "They're definitely a big team up front.  I believe if we use our hands a lot, we'll be able to dominate the line of scrimmage though."

Utah defense

The Utes held Stanford to just 389 yards of total offense, and forced two fumbles during the 27-21 win.

"There's no question Utah was as physical during that game, and they showed it."

"They've always been physical, I think they pride themselves on that," continued Rodriguez.  "They've got some older guys, some veterans, some grown men.  So that helps too, not just from a maturity standpoint but from a strength standpoint."

Senior Trevor Reilly leads the Utes with 44 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss.  He also has two fumbles recovered and a fumble forced this year.  Nate Orchard comes in as the team-leader in sacks with 3.5.

RichRod also talked about how active the Utes are defensively, constantly moving around trying to throw off the offense.

This moving around could present a challenge for B.J. Denker, who talked about how many things are going through his head before every play.

"A million, a million and one," said Denker.  "What defensive front are they in?  What's the coverage?  What's the down and distance?  Where am I going with the ball?  Do I need to check out of a different play?"

The physicality definitely affects the receivers' ability to get off the line as well.

"It's very tough," said Nate Phillips.  "But at practice we've really worked on getting off press man coverage.  It's tough but you've got to do it."

Utah by the numbers

So where does Utah stack up compared to Arizona with their overall numbers this year?

Total offense

Utah - 470.2 yards per game

Arizona - 423.8 yards per game

Total defense

Utah - 403.2 yards allowed per game

Arizona - 377.2

Points per game

Utah - 37

Arizona - 35

3rd down conversion

Utah - 33%

Arizona - 48%

Utah to date

The Utes are 4-2 overall, 1-2 in conference play.  Their one road game was at BYU, which the Utes won 20-13.  The two losses have come at home to Oregon State and UCLA.  The wins are Stanford, BYU, Utah State and Weber State.

Arizona-Utah Series History

The Utes have an overall advantage over the Wildcats having gone 20-16-2 when the teams face off.  Arizona won last year in Salt Lake City, but Utah won two years ago in Tucson.  The two schools each have three wins against the other since 2000.