Friday Night Spotlight – Arizona v. Utah

This series will cover the most intriguing game of the Friday night games, it might not be the highest profile game.
The Arizona v. Utah game will probably get less coverage than it should due to the late kickoff time (10 PM eastern time) but it should be a great game to watch.
Utah enters this game after a massive upset of the then 14th-ranked Stanford Cardinal (albeit a Bryce Love-less one) by a score of 40-21. The Utes have played pretty well this season (you can see my Utes Season Outlook for more information), they lost to a Washington State team that is receiving a fair amount of votes and currently is just outside the top 25 (26th ranked in one poll, 28th in the other). I also think that the Washington v. Utah game is somewhat skewed, Utah had 2 players ejected for targeting penalties (one of which was an interception that was called back) and a Utah defensive lineman got excited and dropped the ball at about the 3 yard line. Unfortunately for the Utes, it ended up turning into no points on the board. Utah and Stanford tend to play a similar, extremely physical defense and an offense that tends to be run-first (if not run-oriented).
To showcase this we can look back at the previous games:

  • Stanford: Again Utah exceeded 200 yards on the ground all while holding the Cardinal to less than 50 yards. Stanford was also atrocious in the turnover department and gave up 4 turnovers (including 2 interceptions) that eventually led to their demise.
  • Washington State: Utah racked up over 200 yards on the ground, while Washington State had a total of zero yards. Utah was leading with 4:00 to go in the 4th quarter where a costly penalty kept the drive alive for Washington State who were able to capitalize on the mistake with a touchdown.
  • Washington: This is the only conference game where the Utes have failed to hit 200 yards rushing, and they missed it by a lot. They managed only 120 yards rushing while Washington managed nearly 170. Here Utah was definitely hampered by the two ejections noted previously, and their inability to hold on to the football having had 3 turnovers.

Arizona enters the game having won 3 of the last 5 (including a loss to USC and a blow out by Houston). Generally speaking Arizona tends to be a much higher scoring offense, though their defense also tends to yield a lot more to the opposition. Arizona’s average points scored (30.3) minus their average points allowed (26.5)is only 3.8 pts. Utah’s, for comparison, works out to 8.6 and the highest points allowed games for each side reflects this 24 (Utah) compared to 45 (Arizona).
The Wildcats production in terms of rushing and passing varies wildly by game, for example, in the Oregon State game they rushed for a ridiculous 400+ yards, and in other games then ran for less than 150.
Why this game was selected for our Friday Night Spotlight:
This is a major matchup for what could be contenders for the PAC-12 South Division, which frankly is in total chaos. No team has more than 2 wins (obvious caveat, UCLA and Colorado have only played 2 conference games), which means that this division is wide open. We also have two teams with a great ability to adapt with Utah showing great defensive adjustments and Arizona showing the ability to attack wherever their opponent is weakest. I mean, this needs to be reiterated — 400+ rushing yards against a conference foe in one game, and then failing to make 150 rush yards in another. Arizona has been able to show off their offensive prowess so far, but they’ll run into a Utah side that’s high on life after a massive upset, where they held Stanford to some of their lowest yardage totals on the season. It is also worth noting that given Arizona’s wild changes in game orientation (passing v. rushing), Utah averages almost 150 yards allowed less per game than Arizona. Furthermore, Arizona gives up almost 200 rushing yards per game, which seems to be somewhat of an important milestone number for the Utes.
Get ready for some awesome football with some big plays, big hits, and great entertainment. We’ll see if the PAC-12 is up for a little more PAC-12 After Dark action or if the favored Utes can pull it off in front of their home crowd!
Until next week…
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