Three Things To Watch: Arizona Vs. No. 14 Utah
SALT LAKE CITY- No. 14 Utah is set to host the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Utes limped out of Pullman, Washington a bit last week with a win and are hoping to be in better health this week. On the other hand, Arizona is coming off of a game where they gave USC everything they could possibly handle for 60 minutes but came up short.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) October 28, 2022
Both teams have a lot riding on Saturday’s matchup. Utah needs to win out to keep their Pac-12 title hopes alive, and Arizona needs to win at least three more games in the next four weeks to be bowl eligible.
Here is what to watch when Arizona and No. 14 Utah kickoff.
Who Is Back, And Who Isn’t For Utah
As mentioned above, Utah walked out of Pullman a little banged up- actually, in reality, they walked into Pullman a little banged up despite having a BYE week.
Quarterback Cam Rising opted not to play against the Cougars last week in a move that shocked a lot of people. Running back Micah Bernard wasn’t supposed to play but was cleared in time and was used very sparingly- mostly in blocking situations. Tight end Dalton Kincaid exited the game after catching Utah’s last touchdown of the night and did not return.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) November 1, 2022
The good news is no one is season-ending for the Utes after last week. However, it is hard to know exactly who will be back and ready to play Saturday and who will not. Rising, Kincaid and Bernard are guys that make the Utes’ offense go and not having them available makes it harder to win-out. Especially when you consider tight end Brant Kuithe and running backs Chris Curry and Tavion Thomas (Thomas has not been available for reasons other than injury and it’s unclear when/if he might be back) are out for the season.
While Arizona is not the best team in the Pac-12, they are vastly improved and probably hungry enough that they could take down a wounded team if the opportunity presented itself.
None of this is to say the guys who filled in last week did bad for Utah, because they didn’t. In fact, odds are if they are asked to go again (quarterback Bryson Barnes, running backs Jaylon Glover and Ja’Quinden Jackson) that it will probably be a smoother run than against Washington State.
What will be interesting to observe is how Utah chooses to balance bringing guys back versus letting them rest in the coming weeks leading up to Oregon and who steps up in their place in the event guys are held out.
Who Steps Up
This is the perfect segway into the next point which is who will step up?
Last week against Washington State, guys that hadn’t been depended on a lot through the season to that point had to step up and carry the team. Barnes, Glover, and Jackson did a good job pulling their weight when Rising, Bernard, and Kincaid weren’t able to go. Utah’s defense also stepped their game up and really carried the team to victory against the Cougars.
Who will it be this week? Even if Rising, Bernard, and Kincaid are all good to play, it seems safe to assume Utah will still need guys to step up and help carry the load for some of their leaders while they work their way back in.
The Front Seven
Speaking of the defense- it is beginning to feel like Utah’s defense and particularly the front seven are finding their groove. In the last two games they have played they have accumulated eight sacks indicating they are getting better pressure on opposing quarterbacks than they were at the beginning of the season.
— Utah Football (@Utah_Football) October 27, 2022
The Utes will need that production to continue at home against a Wildcat team that has a mobile quarterback in Jayden de Laura and a pretty good stable of wide receivers who can do damage if left to their own devices.
Earlier in the week, several members of Utah’s defensive unit talked about how it feels like they are really starting to come together and that their recent successes are only fueling their confidence.
Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports
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