Arizona Wildcats (8-2 SU, 3-7 ATS) vs. Utah Utes (7-3 SU, 8-2 ATS)
College Football Week 13
Date and Time: Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 3:30PM EST
Where: Rice Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah
by Scott, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ARIZ +4/UTAH -4
Over/Under Total: Off
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In a big Pac-12 South battle, the Arizona Wildcats come into Salt Lake City to face the Utah Utes. Both teams remain ranked, but it is likely only Arizona that has a legitimate chance of winning their division, with Utah and Arizona State remaining on the schedule. On Saturday, they narrowly averted defeat with a 27-26 win over Washington. Utah also barely won on Saturday, with a double-overtime win over Stanford.
Utah has lost a little steam in recent weeks, but it has been a successful season, as the Utes have made their presence known in the Pac-12. They hold wins over both USC and UCLA, in addition to Stanford. They also lost to Arizona State, 19-16 in overtime. Theyve shown they can hang in there with the better teams in the Pac-12 and will need to do it again this week. Its not easy to come into Rice Eccles Stadium, one of the more underrated home environments in the country.
Arizonas only two losses were to a pair of Utah victims–UCLA and USC. Theyre the only team to have beaten Oregon, doing it on the road. Theyve also slowed down a tad in the second-half, first with the losses to UCLA and USC and then with close wins over Colorado and Washington, where both teams were in those games with a chance to win. Its been a successful season for Arizona, but now we can see what they have left in their next two games.
Arizona redshirt freshman QB Anu Solomon has been dynamic under center for the Wildcats, with over 3000 yards passing and 25 touchdown passes. He is one of the conferences rising talents and has a big future. He can lean on running backs Nick Wilson and Terris Jones-Grigsby, who provide a nice 1-2 punch. Cayleb Jones leads receivers with 788 yards and 8 TD catches. Austin Hill and Samajie Grant are dependable contributors. Its an offense that has made major strides this season, averaging 36 points a game with the 14th most-prolific passing offense in the land.
Defensively, there is nothing terribly special about the Wildcats. They are exceptionally leaky against the pass and have given up some big performances against the run this season. They allow an average of 445 yards on offense per game. Maybe they can find better luck against a Utah offense that is averaging only 21 points in their last four games.
Utah QB Travis Wilson has been very competent under center for the Utes, making very few mistakes. Hes not very prolific, with 1558 yards in the air and 13 TD throws. But hes only thrown 2 picks and smartly relies on one of the conferences top backs–Devontae Booker. The junior is a workhorse with 1113 yards on the ground. Wilson has even run it in a few times this season. The pass-game has some diversity, but is relatively pedestrian by conference standards, with the leading receiver Dres Anderson leading the team with 355 yards receiving. And hes out for the season
The Utes have managed to average 31.4 points per game, despite their passing game being ranked 100th in the nation and the run-game not really good enough to take over games at this level. They rely on a solid defense, good coaching, and not making a lot of mistakes. And at home, they enjoy a built-in advantage, with opposing teams often being thrown off-stride.
Watching Arizona the last few games, something seems slightly amiss. In home wins against Colorado and Washington, some of the steam they built up seemed to have dissipated. In the last three games, Solomon has struggled, completing just 56 of 125 passes. He threw two picks on Saturday. He will need to show better form on the road against Utah this Saturday.
Utahs offense seems even more out-of-whack in recent games, scoring only 60 points in their last three, with two of those games going to overtime. Theyve been playing a tough schedule, coming off a 4-game stretch of USC, Arizona State, Oregon, and Stanford. Three of their last 5 games have gone to overtime. After a double overtime win over Stanford in a punishing game, are they coming into this game a little worse for wear? Its something worth thinking about, as they have been flatter in recent weeks. Sometimes when a team makes a major improvement like Utah has this season, they end up a little depleted at the end of the season. Then again, that may apply to both teams.
This will not be easy for Arizona, playing a solid team like Utah on the road in a critical game. But maybe they can get a second-wind, with Solomon due to have a good game, pounding away with Booker to wear down the Utah defense. I think Arizona can hang right in there with Utah, with a chance of winning the game outright. Ill take the points.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Arizona Wildcats plus 4 points.