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Utah vs. Arizona Football Prediction and Preview

Author:
Tavion Thomas, Utah Utes Football

Tavion Thomas and the Pac-12 South-leading Utes look to take another step towards another division title when they take on the Wildcats in Tuscon

Utah returned to the College Football Playoff rankings this week. Now the No. 24 Utes enter a matchup with Arizona on Saturday seeking to take one step closer to clinching their third Pac-12 South title in four seasons.

The Utes (6-3, 5-1 Pac-12) dismantled Stanford 52-7 a week ago after rushing for 441 yards — their highest total on the ground against an opponent since racking up 478 against New Mexico in 1991. Utah had six rushing touchdowns and totaled 581 yards on offense. The Utes have been potent on offense since the start of October, averaging 489.3 yards per game over their last five contests. In Pac-12 play, Utah leads the league in scoring offense (38.5 ppg), total offense (466.0 ypg), and rushing offense (253.3 ypg).

The Wildcats (1-8, 1-5) snapped a 20-game losing streak with a 10-3 victory over California last week. Arizona faced a shorthanded Bears team ravaged by COVID-19-related absences and took advantage. California mustered 122 total yards on offense against the Wildcats. It was the fewest total yards Arizona allowed in a Pac-12 game since 2006.

Utah holds a 24-19-2 over Arizona in the all-time series. The Utes have won four straight games against the Wildcats dating back to 2015.

No. 24 Utah at Arizona

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Utah -24

When Utah Has the Ball

It isn't an empty boast to say Utah has one of the deepest backfields of any FBS team. The Utes achieved a major milestone against Stanford. Three different running backs rushed for at least 107 yards against the Cardinal — the first time in school history that Utah has had three 100-yard rushers in the same game.

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Tavion Thomas led the way, accounting for four of Utah's seven touchdowns and finishing with a career-best 177 yards on 20 carries. He leads the Pac-12 with 14 rushing touchdowns and ranks fifth with 742 rushing yards. Micah Bernard (110 yards) and TJ Pledger (107 yards) each had their second 100-yard game of the season against Stanford. Pledger also set a school record with his 96-yard touchdown run and leads the Pac-12 with 8.7 yards per carry. The trio has combined for 1,525 rushing yards so far.

Their emergence has only made quarterback Cameron Rising even more dangerous. Arizona can't afford to focus too much attention on stopping the run because Rising can beat the Wildcats with his arm just as easily. He has three 200-yard games in six starts this season. Rising doesn't waste time getting to that point either. Against Pac-12 opponents, Rising is completing 63.9 percent of his passes and has totaled 108 completions.

When Arizona Has the Ball

Stanley Berryhill III is closing in on a huge milestone. Berryhill has made 64 catches this season for Arizona and is one reception away from breaking into the school's top 10 list for a single season. He has been a source of consistency on a struggling offense. Berryhill averages 7.1 receptions per game, ranking second in the Pac-12 and 13th in the nation. His 548 total receiving yards rank fourth among Pac-12 players.

Arizona will need to get things going in the run game to have a realistic shot at upsetting Utah. So far, the Wildcats haven't been able get much backfield production. Will Plummer, Arizona's starting quarterback, was the top rusher with 68 yards on 11 carries against California. Drake Anderson has battled injuries much of the season, and Michael Wiley has not shown an ability to make explosive plays in the backfield. The Wildcats have been able to eclipse 200 rushing yards in three league games this season using a hodgepodge of runners, but they have not yet had a single back eclipse 100 yards in a game.

Final Analysis

Utah is operating on offense as efficiently as a brand-new engine. The Utes are dominating opponents on that side of the ball in a manner that echoes how they have dominated opponents on defense for many years now. Any hopes Arizona has of keeping pace aren't grounded in reality. This will be another quick and easy victory for the Utes.

Prediction: Utah 45, Arizona 10

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Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sports journalist based in Utah. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.