Arizona has won four consecutive games for the first time since 2019 and enters the final two weeks of the regular season still alive for the Pac-12 championship game. All it needs to do to keep that hope alive is knock off the 2-time defending conference champs on Senior Day.
Piece of cake.
The 19th-ranked Wildcats (7-3, 5-2 Pac-12) host No. 16 Utah (7-3, 4-3) on Saturday in their final home game of the season. The Utes have won six in a row in the series.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Arizona is a 1-point favorite. Who takes this matchup? Here’s what our staff thinks.
Kim Doss — Arizona wins 24-21
Defense should be the story of this one. Utah holds its opponents to less than 18 points per game while Arizona has been winning by keeping opponents under 21 points. The question is whether some of the struggles the Arizona defense showed last week are the beginning of a trend or just a fluke.
Both teams are among the best at containing the run. The Utes are No. 5 in the country. The Wildcats are No. 13. This still could weigh in Arizona’s favor simply because Utah relies on the run much more than the Wildcats do. Sixty-four percent of Arizona’s yardage comes through the air. For the Utes, 52 percent comes on the ground. Simply put, Arizona’s strength on defense counters Utah’s strength on offense.
Utah’s defense is also superior when it comes to limiting opponents’ yards through the air, but it’s nowhere near as dominant as its run defense. The Utes stand at 47th in the country compared to Arizona at 81st. This matters for the Wildcats because they’re the 24th-best passing offense in the sport. If Utah’s passing defense was as strong as its run defense, this would be an easy call for the Utes. It isn’t, though.
Before the season, I had this as a loss. It feels a bit dangerous, but I’m going to flip that. The caveat is that Arizona’s defense needs to bounce back to what it was prior to last week. If the defense falters again, the winning streak will end. I’m going with it not faltering again.
Brandon Combs — Arizona wins 31-28
I originally picked Utah to win this game during our fall camp predictions. I am going to change my tune this week. Last week proved that Arizona is a good football team. Arizona doesn’t win that game last year, or any year in the recent past, but they found a way to win. Good teams find ways to win.
Utah has had a surprising amount of struggles offensively this season. That kind of thing does happen when your star quarterback is out for the year and you try to find the right fit. Bryson Barnes has performed admirably as the Utah’s QB after taking over from Nate Johnson. However, he hasn’t been stellar. He’s completed 58% of his passes, has just under 1,200 yards, has 10 touchdowns, 7 picks. He can hurt you with his legs, so that is another challenge for Johnny Nansen. Two-way stud Sione Vaki is also a problem, as is former-QB-now-RB Ja’Quinden Jackson, who is averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
Defensively, Utah is still good. They are in the top three in the conference in points per game (17.8), pass yards per game (214.2), rushing yards per game (85.6), and total yards per game (299.8). That’s a tough defense, no two-ways about it. Jonah Elliss is an absolute beast off the edge, racking up 12 sacks so far this season. Sione Vaki is also a problem in the defensive backfield.
I’m interested to see how Arizona matches up to this Utah team. They are physical enough to go head-to-head with them. They have the offensive fire power and the defense is wildly improved from last season. In the end, much like in Boulder, I think Arizona will find a way to win their last home game of the season.
Ezra Amacher — Arizona wins 21-20
Utah has been Arizona’s kryptonite over the last several years, winning six straight matchups. How sweet would it be if Arizona ended that streak this year while cementing its first eight-win season since 2014? There’s not much to add about the game that the other writers haven’t covered, but I think it’s worth reminding that Arizona is still in the hunt for the Pac-12 Championship game and thus should be playing with some extra motivation. Arizona can still get to Las Vegas by winning and having Oregon State lose to Washington and beat Oregon next Saturday. It’s a long shot but far from impossible. I expect Arizona to keep its conference title game hopes alive with a close win.
Adam Green — Utah wins 27-23
It’s clear by now that Arizona is a good football team and, quite possibly, a really good football team. Much of the last month has been waiting for the hot streak to end, when instead all that’s happened is the Cats have continually found ways to win even without playing their best. It’s been great to see.
It’s also what makes this matchup so interesting and tough to predict. Utah is not as good as it has been in recent years, but the Utes are still ranked in the top 25 and bring their patented physical brand of football to the field.
The offense isn’t great, but it is capable. The defense isn’t dominant, but it is good. Utah has three losses, but all were to ranked teams and two were to opponents ranked in the top 10. Two were on the road.
In a season filled with measuring stick games this is another, as the Cats look to knock off the program they likely aspire to be. Arizona will need to play better than it did against Colorado, but we know they’re capable. Though I do wonder, would people be OK with a loss this week if it guaranteed a victory next week against ASU?
Devin Homer — Arizona wins 31-28
Arizona has won four straight games and will look to continue rolling against No. 16 Utah.
Noah Fifita had a rough first-half last week against Colorado but he was able to turn it around and lead UA to the win. Fifita will have to continue play well and be prepared for a a back-and-forth game with the defending Pac-12 champions.
Arizona’s defense will have to be ready to play a physical game against the Utes rushing attack who ranks fifth in the Pac-12 in rushing-yards a game. The key will be being able to get off the field on third-down and not allowing drives to be extended by self-inflicted wounds.
Brian J. Pedersen — Utah wins 23-20
The run has to end at some point, and any self-respecting Arizona fan would take a loss here over one next week in the Territorial Cup. This doesn’t mean the Wildcats can’t beat Utah, but the physicality of the 2-time defending Pac-12 champs combined with the Utes’ experience as the team to beat will be too much to overcome this time.
Arizona won’t be looking ahead to ASU, but it will be in the back of their collective minds, as it seems to always be. The Wildcats haven’t won the game immediately preceding the T-Cup since 2015, ironically an overtime home win over Utah.
If the UA manages to take this one it will further cement Johnny Nansen’s defensive rebuild, because this doesn’t figure to be a shootout.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.