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Arizona vs. Utah: Previewing the Wildcats and Utes by the numbers

Will the Wildcats be able to run the ball against the Utes? We take a look at that and more in our by the numbers preview.

NCAA Football: Utah at San Jose State Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Every week, we take a look at the statistics underlying Arizona Wildcats’ upcoming match-up. This week, we take a look at the Utah Utes’ ability to stop the Wildcats’ rushing attack and Arizona’s chances of pulling off the upset on the road.

246.8 - Arizona’s rushing yards per game

Arizona is on its fourth quarterback of the season, and the starting running back is either the fifth running back or the fifth wide receiver, depending on the need in a given week. It doesn’t matter, though - oceans rise, empires fall, Arizona will continue to run the ball. Despite all the injuries on offense, the Wildcats are currently 18th in the country in rushing offense. Even last week - with Brandon Dawkins getting hurt and Khalil Tate getting thrown into the fray with little notice - Arizona rushed for 242 yards.

With Tate likely getting the nod this week, we should see more of the same. Tate was running over defenders last weekend, Tyrell Johnson seemed to get a little more comfortable at running back, and Zach Green reliably filled the back-up running back role. Expect to see the Wildcats run, run, and run some more in Salt Lake City on Saturday.

117.4 - Utah’s rushing yards allowed per game

That would be a lot easier to do, though, if the Utes weren’t so stout against the run. Utah ranks 27th in FBS is rushing defense so far this season, allowing only 117.4 rushing yards per game. That mark is good for second in the conference, with only Arizona State defending the run more effectively.

That said, Utah’s defensive line may be missing its best player. Lowell Lotulelei, who was first team All Pac-12 in 2015 and entered this season as an All-America candidate, missed last week’s game against Cal with a shoulder injury. Lotulelei is expected to return this week, but if he doesn’t, the Utah defense will find it much, much harder to stop Arizona’s rushing attack.

29.6% - likelihood of Arizona winning, per S&P+

That doesn’t make Arizona a favorite, though. Over at Football Study Hall, Bill Connelly gives the Wildcats a 29.6% chance of pulling off the road upset. That seems fair - the game is on the road, Utah has been much better than Arizona so far this season, and Arizona is starting a 17-year-old quarterback. I like Khalil Tate a lot, but Utah is one of the tougher road environments in the Pac-12, and I expect he’ll struggle at times.

Arizona +10 - the spread

For once this season, Vegas and the advanced statistics are on the same page. The spread in this game is Arizona +10. S&P+, meanwhile, pegs Arizona as a 9.3 point underdog. That’s pretty close!

Arizona has a shot to win this game, just like they had a shot against UCLA. But don’t expect them to win. If they’re somehow able to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat, Wildcat fans should be pleasantly surprised.