Arizona Can Be Dangerous With Not Much To Play For Against Utah

Nov 12, 2021, 12:32 PM
Kyle Whittingham - Utah vs. Arizona...
Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham and players celebrate their 35-7 win over the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah football is peaking at the right time and is in complete control of the Pac-12 South with three games left this season.

This week, the Utes are going on the road to face the hapless Arizona Wildcats, who earned their first victory of the season to snap a 20-game losing streak.

To be blunt, this Wildcats team is in rebuilding mode. However, coming off the inaugural win of the Jedd Fisch era, this team is all about getting better and possibly playing spoiler to ruin someone else’s season.

The Utes need to be careful and not let a repeat performance and loss like the Oregon State game happen. That is the message that head coach Kyle Whittingham told his team earlier this week — don’t overlook the one-win Wildcats.

“We’ll have team meetings and address that very possibility, but I would guess that the group that we have here has great leadership. I don’t guess, I know they have great leadership,” Whittingham said. They’ll handle it just like we have past several weeks. We’re settled into our routine. It’s just rinse and repeat every week. You just start over and do the same things.”

The Utes are in a great position with a one-game lead over Arizona State and have a potential tiebreaker with a head-to-head win. Utah does have room to slip up and still win the South, but that is not what this team wants to do.

A Rose Bowl berth is in sight with Oregon currently in a really good spot to go to the College Football Playoff. The Utes can’t afford too many slip-ups because they could get passed up for the Rose Bowl with five losses.

Players Are Completely Focused

Utah defensive lineman Devin Kaufusi made his weekly appearance on UnRivaled and mimicked what Whittingham said about being ready and not looking past Arizona.

“[We are looking at the] bigger picture in a sense that helps you with your mindset and just kind of like how feeling as a player and what I mean by that is coach [Po’uha] talks to us about how we’ve been rolling the punches this year,” Kaufusi said. “We have those tough losses and everything. We have a lot of young guys on defense playing. But still, every Utah team that’s come through, they wish they were in your shoes. So in the big picture of that sense is you guys are in the driver’s seat.

“We have the best standing right now at the best place where we want to be in sense of our main goal this season is winning a Pac-12 Championship. That’s about as far as you’re looking.”

This is what great teams and coaches do. They prepare each week as a new slate and try to go 1-0 for the week and sometimes that is just coach-speak when playing teams they should defeat. However, it seems that the Ute players and Whittingham are actually doing that. It is likely due to slip-ups earlier in the year, making this team humble and hungry even when going up against a one-win Arizona team.

With the Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl berth within reach, these players seemed focused to finish out the season strong.

Utah travels to Arizona on Saturday, November 13. The game will kick off at 12 p.m. (MDT) on the Pac-12 Network.

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