No. 14 Utah still is in contention for the Pac-12 title game and shouldn’t lose at home to Arizona on Saturday, but it’s just a matter of covering a big number.
Which way to lean at BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks?
Arizona Wildcats vs. Utah Utes
Saturday, November 05, 2022 – 07:30 PM EDT at Rice-Eccles Stadium
The Pac-12 Network has this likely Pac-12 mismatch. At 4-1 in the league, Utah would play in the conference title game if it wins out, and it will be favored in two of the final three, just not at No. 8 and league leader Oregon on Nov. 19. Arizona is 1-4 in the league and trying to avoid the basement.
Last season, Arizona lost 38-29 at No. 24 Utah (which ended up being the Pac-12 champion) but played quite well. The Utes’ Cameron Rising threw for 294 yards and two touchdowns (he’s still there, but no sure thing for Saturday), and T.J. Pledger ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns (he’s gone). Arizona's Will Plummer finished with 219 yards passing and one touchdown.
Utah leads the all-time series 25-19-2 and 12-10-2 in Tucson. The Utes are 4-1 against the spread on the NCAAF picks in the past five meetings.
Arizona Solid Offensively
Arizona was in the conversation as the worst Power 5 program in both the shortened 2020 campaign under Kevin Sumlin (0-5 record) and last year with a 1-11 mark under Jedd Fisch.
The Cats clearly have improved this year, though, at 3-5. There’s no chance they get bowl eligible.
Actually, I should say the offense has taken big steps forward (Fisch’s specialty), but the defense is still a problem. Both were on display last Saturday in a 45-37 home loss to then-No. 10 USC.
The Trojans had 621 total yards and were 11-for-17 on third down. Arizona ranks second-to-last in the conference in total defense (475.0 ypg allowed) and scoring (37.4 ppg).
The Wildcats had 543 yards in the loss, their fourth game this season with at least 500. Jayden de Laura, a transfer from Washington State, threw for 380 yards and three scores and rushed for 54 yards. It was his fourth game this season throwing for at least 350 yards. Since 1996, the most 350-plus yard passing performances in a single season belongs to Nick Foles, who had nine in 2011.
Receiver Dorian Singer had seven catches for 141 yards and three scores. He became the second Arizona wideout to catch 3 touchdown passes in a game this season, joining Jacob Cowing, who did it in the season opener at San Diego State.
Arizona’s passing offense ranks third among all FBS programs, averaging 340.1 yards per game. Cowing (102.1) and Singer (93.3) are both among the Top 15 players nationally in receiving yards per game.
The Wildcats are 47-126-1 all-time against AP Top 25 opponents, including a record of 14-63-1 on the road. The Cats’ last Top 25 road victory was against No. 20 Utah in 2014 (42-10). Arizona is 10-25 ATS on the NCAAF odds in its past 35 road games.
Will Utah QB Play?
Utah is on a few days extra rest as it won at Washington State 21-17 on Oct. 27. Starting QB Cam Rising, who was first-team All-Pac-12 last year, was a late scratch with a left knee injury, and walk-on Bryson Barnes made his first career start and was 17-for-27 for 175 yards, a TD and no picks. He also rushed for 57 yards. Alas, we don’t yet know if Rising will play this week.
"If Cam says he can't play, he can't play. So there was no doubting him whatsoever," Coach Kyle Whittingham said. "Bryson was not expecting to be the starter. But that's the nature of the number two quarterback, you're only ever one snap away."
The Utes were also without leading rusher Tavion Thomas, and it’s not clear if he’ll be ready for this one, either. Freshman Jaylon Glover set career highs in rushing attempts (20) and rushing yards (76) in the win and had a TD.
Utah’s defense is always one of the best in the Pac-12 and that unit had a season-high 10 tackles for loss, including four sacks. It was the third time this season Utah had at least four. The Utes rank No. 1 in the conference in total defense (339.4 ypg allowed) and second in scoring (21.6 ppg).
Utah’s defense has scored 3 touchdowns in 2022, which is fourth in the FBS. It is only allowing 17.0 first downs per game, ranking first in the Pac-12. Utah is one of six Power 5 teams and the only team in the Pac-12 to rank in the Top 30 nationally in both total defense and total offense.
Rice-Eccles Stadium is a very tough place to play. Utah has won 23 of its last 24 home games, including 12 in a row, which is the second-longest streak in the Whittingham era. The Utes are 4-1 ATS in their past five at home.
Think Rising plays so I expect a win by about three touchdowns, something like 41-20, so we’ll give the points. I might buy this down to -16.5 to be safe.
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