Arizona’s gauntlet of tough opponents continues Saturday when it takes on the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City.
Ranked 14th in the first College Football Playoff standings, Utah (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) has won 12 consecutive games at Rice-Eccles Stadium and has beaten the Wildcats five straight times. Arizona (3-5, 1-4) is a 17.5-point underdog, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
Who will win this matchup? Here’s what our staff thinks:
Kim Doss — Utah wins 38-28
This game is somewhat dependent on who is actually available for Utah. Proceeding under the assumption that Cam Rising will play, the Utes should be able to get at least their average (38.25 points per game) against an Arizona defense that might be improving but isn’t there yet. Coincidentally, Arizona is allowing right around 38 points per game (37.38). Arizona has already shown that it can put points up. That shouldn’t be a huge problem here, and I don’t see the Wildcats losing by over 17 points as the books predict. They’re not quite good enough to pull off the upset yet, though.
Ezra Amacher — Utah wins 33-20
Arizona is catching Utah at the right time. Not only is Rising at less than full health, Utah could also be without All-Pac-12 tight end Dalton Kincaid and running back Micah Bernard, who are both banged up. Additionally, Utah’s star safety R.J. Hubert must sit out the first half for a targeting ejection in last week’s game against Washington State.
The Wildcats will take advantage of Utah’s roster disarray by keeping this game close through one half. Ultimately Arizona’s defense won’t be able to keep the Utes off the field when it matters.
Brandon Combs — Utah wins 38-31
Arizona’s brutal schedule continues this week in SLC. The Utes, as has been the case recently, are a very good team. Cam Rising has flourished since he transferred there and he has the offense clicking. The main storyline here is if Arizona can slow Utah’s offense down enough.On the other hand, Utah’s secondary, outside of Clark Phillips, has not been great. That could present a favorable matchup for JDL and UA’s very good WR corps.In the end, though, Utah makes one more play, while the colder weather does affect Arizona slightly.
Adam Green — Utah wins 42-31
To expect an Arizona win would be wrong. Utah is, as per usual, quite good. They come into this one with a tough defense and an offense that has proven capable of scoring points when necessary.
For Arizona the question is if they can keep up like they did against USC and Washington. Jedd Fisch’s offense has been productive, with Jayden de Laura playing some outstanding football of late. If the Cats can move the ball Saturday — and even score a few touchdowns — they’ll have a chance.
But like against USC, and perhaps even more so, Arizona will need to play a nearly perfect game if they are to pull off the upset. Unfortunately, that’s too much to ask.
Brian J. Pedersen — Utah wins 34-20
There’s a lot of uncertainty around which of Utah’s key offensive players may be available, but what isn’t uncertain is that Arizona’s defense still isn’t good enough to slow down any opponent. That was evident against USC when the Trojans played without their top two receivers (and a couple offensive linemen) and you couldn’t tell the difference.
This game figures to go like most in Pac-12 play for the Wildcats with one exception: Utah is capable of jumping out to a two-score lead early and then sitting on it, taking away Arizona’s need to turn the game into a shootout and hope it gets a stop somewhere along the way.
The closest opponent Arizona has faced to Utah this season is probably North Dakota State, but with much better skill players.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.