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Arizona vs Utah: First look at the Utes

The Wildcats will celebrate Senior Night against a Top-10 team

arizona-wildcats-utah-utes-preview-pac12-football-huntley-moss-whittingham Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats return home after a disappointing effort at Oregon, which extends its losing streak to five games. The bad news continues as the Wildcats (4-6, 2-5 Pac-12) now face another Top 10 opponent in the Utah Utes

Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday at 8 pm MST and will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

Here’s a quick look at the Utes.

2019 Record: 9-1 (6-1 Pac-12)

Key Games:

  • Week 1 win at BYU (30-12)
  • Week 4 loss at USC (30-23)
  • Week 8 win vs. ASU (21-3)
  • Week 10 win at Washington (33-28)

Key Offensive Players: Tyler Huntley (QB), Zack Moss (RB), Bryan Thompson (WR), Darrin Paulo (LT)

Key Defensive Players: Bradlee Anae (DE), Devin Lloyd (LB), Francis Bernard (LB), Julian Blackmon (Safety)

Utah is close to clinching the Pac-12 South for the second straight year. They are on a collision course to face Oregon for a winner-likely-makes-the-College-Football-Playoff game.

Senior quarterback Tyler Huntley is a big reason for the success of this team. He is having a career year and is just 15 passing yards away from his career high. Huntley also enters the game with an impressive 13-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio while completing 74.2 percent of his passes.

Huntley’s backfield counterpart and fellow senior, running back Zack Moss, is also experiencing a career year for production. He is Utah’s career rushing leader and is 219 yards away from breaking his season best of 1,173 yards.

Moss has already set career highs for rushing TDs (13) and receiving yards (288) this season.

As for pass-catchers, the Utes have eight players with at least 10 catches and 100 yards. Huntley has shown he’s not picky with whom he’ll share the ball. However, the team’s leader in receiving yards is Bryan Thompson, who has three TD catches.

The offensive line has done a great job protecting Huntley by allowing only 14 sacks in 10 games. The 1.4 sacks allowed per game is 25th in FBS. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Utah’s line is it only features one senior in left tackle Darrin Paulo.

Defensively speaking, it’s the same story just a different year. The Utes rank third in the country in total defense, allowing 248.6 yards per game. In terms of scoring defense, they’re ranked fourth with 11.3 points allowed per game.

A lot of this accomplished by a strong pass rush and that’s what defensive end Bradlee Anae provides. He leads the team with 10 sacks, which is tied for fifth nationally.

Beyond this element to their defense is strong linebackers in Devin Lloyd and Francis Bernard. They combine for 127 total tackles, three sacks and three interceptions. They have also each registered a defensive score.

The team leader in interceptions is senior safety Julian Blackmon. He has not only recorded four interceptions but is also the team’s fourth-leading tackler with 49.

There’s no point in sugar coating this. It’s going to take a miracle for the Wildcats to pull this off. The only hope is Khalil Tate provides the best home finale the fan base has ever seen.

The only time he’s started against Utah was last season when he re-aggravated his ankle injury. This forced an early exit from the game and an ugly outcome ensued for Arizona. If Tate is able to turn back the clocks to 2017, it might be enough to electrify the defense.

Utah has lost this game before. In 2015, they came to Tucson on Senior Night as a Top 10 team. Its only conference loss was at USC, as is the case this season.

Arizona was riding a three-game skid and the stars aligned. It took two overtimes for the Wildcats to seal the deal but they did it.

Will history repeat itself? Given the way the season has gone, don’t count on it. But then again, ya never know.