Utah should defeat Arizona in Tucson, but they’ll do it as underdogs, and BYU is looking for positive vibes in taking on No. 14 Oklahoma in LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday morning.
Neither 5-5 BYU nor 7-3 Utah rarely lose in back-to-back weeks. The Cougars already passed that barrier with losses to Texas and Iowa State, and the Utes are staring that in the face at Arizona after losing to Washington in Seattle.
Utah needs turnovers
The Utes will need a superior offensive effort and a great effort by their stout defense to win in the desert because Arizona’s defense is better than Washington and the Wildcats’ offense isn’t too shabby, either. The difference in this game will be turnovers.
No. 17 Arizona is favored over No. 22 Utah by a bunch of folks who make their living picking college football scores. Fox Sports’ Chris “The Bear” Facilla is one of them. USA Today’s six staffers are split in half over who will win.
Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon picks Arizona over Utah because he sees the Utes’ performances getting a little shaky down the stretch,
Writes Kenyon, “As feisty as Utah had been defensively this season, the performance has dipped noticeably. Yes, that’s a function of competition; USC, Oregon and Washington all topped six-plus yards per play. However, Utah only defeated USC because of its horrid defense. Arizona’s surging offense is a tough matchup for Utah right now.”
What Kenyon may forget is that Kyle Whittingham loves the underdog role. He can build a chip on a shoulder faster than Joe Biden naps. He’s an artist at it. Morgan Scalley’s defense will need to get turnovers to make it work. Utah is in a seasonal mode of playing tough defense and running the ball to control the game, but they may not be able to run consistently on Arizona.
BYU needs positivity
After losing to West Virginia, Texas and Iowa State, the Cougars need some positivity when they face their biggest underdog role to a visitor in recent memory.
Here’s how you measure progress after that blowout loss to Iowa State last week:
• Don’t turn the ball over in the first minute of the game.
"This is what we signed up for. We've all been through this before and you have to go through the fire to learn how to stand on your feet in this league. It's tough and we're going through a tough time right now but we embrace the challenge and you've got to go through it to grow… pic.twitter.com/rbwMOK3UPN— Benjamin Criddle (@CriddleBenjamin) November 16, 2023
• On defense, focus on winning one aspect of the game, in this case, stopping the run consistently. Making tackles, doing the 1/11, not trying to do somebody else’s job and making plays will go a long way in establishing confidence in defensive coordinator Jay Hill’s squad. Walk off the field by holding Oklahoma’s power offense to under 150 yards rushing, and that’s progress.
• Don’t get in a situation where a timeout is needed because personnel don’t fit the play. Have better clock management and substitutions. These are basics that after 10 games a team should be able to digest without a burp.
• Establish some kind of run game with Aidan Robbins, LJ Martin and Jake Retzlaff so the defense doesn’t have to face so many plays from Dillon Gabriel and the Sooners offense. Of course, this has been a seasonlong challenge without Robbins’ availability and a QB that primarily isn’t a run threat with Kedon Slovis.
• Keep this game, a final home game honoring the seniors, interesting enough that fans will want to remain in their seats until late in the fourth quarter.
Sitake is fighting to prove his culture is working. It’s just tough that the task will now come against one of the most explosive offenses in the country after a three-game losing streak.
Utah State needs top QB play
It is so rare for Utah State to get Boise State in a state of flux in midseason. A coaching change, the firing of Andy Avalos, a five-game win season in November? What more could the Aggies ask for in a matchup with the Broncos?
Have to take advantage of this Bronco pasture disruption.
The Aggies will need one of their best performances of the season from the QB spot to beat the Broncos. Limiting errors and turnovers and having Cooper Legas make big plays from beginning to end is the recipe. Bowl eligibility is on the table.
This week’s picks
- Arizona 24, Utah 21.
- USC 34, UCLA 28.
- Oregon 42, Arizona State 17.
- California 28, Stanford 24.
- Washington 38, Oregon State 34.
- Kansas State 31, Kansas 28.
- Texas Tech 27, UCF 21.
- Oklahoma State 35, Houston 21.
- TCU 34, Baylor 17.
- West Virginia 31, Cincinnati 24.
- Texas 34, Iowa State 28.
- Oklahoma 58, BYU 21.
- Utah State 21, Boise State 17.
Last week 8-4; overall 98-34 (.742).