Arizona Football

Arizona Wildcats notes: Alabama open to home-and-home scheduling again … why not UA?

Crimson Tide rolling into Tucson?

Arizona vs. Alabama in a home-and-home scheduling arrangement? How about it Greg Byrne? It was reported this week that Alabama coach Nick Saban and Byrne, the former Arizona athletic director now at Alabama in the same capacity, discussed the possibility of scheduling more home-and-home series with non-conference opponents rather than play in only the neutral site made-for-TV games.

“I would like to do that,” Saban said. “We played Penn State home-and-home when I was here, and it was a good game here, it was a good game there, great crowd and all that. It’s better for our fans if we play at home, I get that. But playing in these sort of games has helped us to play a better team, even though it’s at a neutral site, and it gained tremendous exposure for the program early on.

“But Greg Byrne and I met about doing this in the future where we have some home-and-homes with some teams every now and then so we’re not playing in one of these neutral-site games to start the season.”

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With Byrne’s background at Arizona, the thought has to at least cross his mind of scheduling the Wildcats, who would profit a great deal from the exposure of the Crimson Tide coming to Tucson for the first time. Tempering this thought: Schedules are made well in advance, so if Alabama does a home-and-home with Arizona it probably would not happen for 10 or more years.

Saban will more than likely be gone by then.

Utah loaded with NFL talent, especially on defensive line

While the thought of Alabama with its bevy of NFL talent coming to Tucson is enticing, No. 23 Utah is not too shabby.

The talented Utes (3-0) will be on display tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Arizona Stadium.

Utah seven NFL draft-eligible players ranked by NFLDraftScout.com in the top 20 among their respective positions — punter Mitch Wishnowsky (No. 1), defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei (No. 2), strong safety Chase Hansen (No. 4), wide receiver Darren Carringon II (No. 13), defensive tackle Filipo Mokofisi (No. 14), offensive tackle Jackson Barton and defensive end Kylie Fitts.

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Lotulelei, Mokofisi and Kitts are defensive linemen who will play on Sundays. That’s a significant reason why Utah is limiting opponents to only 49.3 yards rushing a game, which ranks No. 1 in the Pac-12 and No. 2 nationally. The Utes have allowed only one rushing touchdown all season with no gain on the ground longer than 19 yards.

Wishnowsky is an All-American who is the reigning Ray Guy Award winner. Utah and Wishnowsky lead the Pac-12 and rank fifth in the nation in net punting (average of 45.44 yards).

Wishnowsky usually gives Utah good field position, the Utes’ defense usually keeps the opposing offense off the field and Carrington (formerly of Oregon) matched up with effective quarterback Tyler Huntley give the Utes a deadly combination on offense.

The Utes’ weakness?

Converting after reaching the red zone is Utah’s kryptonite but the Utes have accurate placekicker Matt Guy to bail them out. Utah has reached the red zone 22 times and have reached the end zone only 10 of those times.

When the Utes don’t hit pay dirt placekick Matt Gay makes defenses pay.

In his first season as a college kicker, Gay, a senior transfer from Utah Valley University, where he played soccer, is the nation’s leading field goal kicker. His 44 total points leads all kickers and ranks second overall nationally and he is tied for first in the country in field goals made (11), field goals per game (3.67) and field
goal percentage (1.000).

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Gay has nearly twice as many attempts and makes (11-of-11) as the next kicker in the country without a miss
(6-of-6) and his 56-yarder against San Jose State is the longest field goal in the nation this season.

Gay’s only previous football experience came as a high school senior at Orem (Utah) High in 2011. He played soccer at Utah Valley in 2014 and 2016 before walking on to the Utah football team in August.

Utah’s defense on the other end has been very stout in the red zone. Opponents have entered the red zone only seven times in the first three games and have only three touchdowns to show for it.

Arizona will need a perfect game to beat Utah, one without turnovers and with big plays that will catch the Utes off guard. Utah appears solid on all fronts.

The Wildcats (2-1) have yet to beat a ranked opponent in a conference opener since joining the Pac-12 in 1978. They are 0-12.


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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.

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