What: Arizona (2-3, 0-2) vs. No. 24 Utah (4-1, 1-1)
When: Today, 7 p.m., Tucson time
Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City
TV: FS1 (Tim Brando, Spencer Tillman and Bruce Feldman)
Radio: IMG Network (Brian Jeffries and Lamont Lovett)
Line: Utah by 10.
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This game will determine…
If Arizona can win in the midst of adversity. The Wildcats are on a two-game losing streak losing to Washington and UCLA. Rich Rodriguez has endured two three-game losing streaks at Arizona since becoming the head coach in 2012. The Wildcats need a victory to revitalize a season that shows no mercy. After playing Utah, Arizona must host a rejuvenated USC team with quarterback Sam Darnold and perennial power Stanford before playing at challenging Washington State and hosting upstart Colorado. The Wildcats will not be favored in any of those games unless the Buffaloes slip. That means Arizona is facing a potential seven-game losing streak before it travels to Oregon State on Nov. 19 if the Wildcats lose tonight. Arizona is in a 4-7 stretch dating to the end of last season. A record like that after ll games might happen this season heading into the ASU game. …
Three things to look for:
1. Khalil Tate, Khalil Tate and Khalil Tate If indeed Anu Solomon (knee) is doubtful, that leaves a questionable Brandon Dawkins (ribs) with the possibility of starting tonight. In a season with already three defeats and Arizona practically out of the Pac-12 South race, many Arizona followers believe Rich Rodriguez should just bite the bullet and go with the true freshman Khalil Tate. If anything, given Tate’s skillset as an accomplished dual-threat quarterback in high school, his presence should bring some fun back to this season and this program. …
2. Turnovers again essential. The Wildcats lost big at UCLA despite not turning the ball over, but the Bruins wore down Arizona’s defense and the Wildcats’ offense sputtered immediately after Dawkins was taken out of the game. Marcel Yates’ defense must show it can come up with the big plays against a Utah offense that is not as difficult to defend as UCLA’s was with Josh Rosen at quarterback. Utah is No. 9 in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency offense with former Washington quarterback Troy Williams as the starter. Williams has completed 99 of 163 pass attempts for 1,259 yards but he’s connected on only six touchdown passes with four interceptions. When Arizona causes multiple turnovers in the Rodriguez era, the Wildcats are 24-4. …
3. Can Arizona control the tempo? Arizona has the No. 2 rushing offense in the Pac-12, mostly because its quarterbacks can run, while the Utes have the No. 2 rushing defense in the league. For Arizona to control tempo and move the ball against Utah, its running game must be efficient against Utah’s stringent defense. That will involve Tate and/or Dawkins gaining yards on the run and an Arizona running back to be productive. Nick Wilson (ankle) is questionable. Arizona does not have much behind him with Orlando Bradford kicked off the team and J.J. Taylor out for the rest of the season with a broken ankle. If the run game is not diverse between the quarterback and running backs producing, that adversely effects the receivers getting open looks and passes from the quarterback. So essentially, Rodriguez is forced to have his offense control tempo with a fourth-string quarterback and running back. Not good. …
Arizona’s offensive line vs. Utah’s defensive front Utah is No. 2 against the run in the Pac-12 (yielding only 117.4 yards per game) largely because its sack totals. The Utes are tied for No. 7 in the nation and second in the Pac-12 with 18 sacks. Arizona has allowed 11 sacks which ranks 57th nationally. The Wildcats’ offensive line has also been affected by injuries this season. Jacob Alsadek (shoulder) and Gerhard de Beer (ankle) are probable while Freddie Tagaloa (knee) is questionable. The Wildcats’ line must remain healthy and play one of their best games for Arizona to have a shot. It will be interesting to see if All-Pac-12 defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei will play after missing the game last week at Cal with a shoulder injury. It was the first game the junior missed in his college career. …
By the numbers:
Utah is 9 of 10 on fourth-down conversions. Expect the Utes to be brazen in that regard tonight against an Arizona defense that is still trying to establish itself. Field position will be important in this regard. If the Wildcats manage to get the stop they likely will have the ball in a good spot.
Utah player to watch: DE Hunter Dimick
— Has played in 35 games in his career with 25 starts.
— Leads the Pac-12 and is tied for 12th in the nation in total sacks (5.0).
— Tied for the league lead in tackles for loss (7.0) and is second in TFL per game (1.40).
— Has 18 total tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.