Nothing puts a team back on track like a convincing win over a Top 25 team – and the Utah Utes would love to build on their momentum Friday night as they entertain the Arizona Wildcats in a Pac-12 encounter. Utah erased a two-game losing skid with emphasis last time out, taking advantage of Stanford running back Bryce Love's absence in a 40-21 drubbing of the Cardinal. The Wildcats took advantage of four California turnovers last time out in a 24-17 victory over the Bears.
The Wildcats opened the season with a robust run game, but has averaged just 3.13 yards per carry with only one touchdown on the ground through their previous two games. Standout running back J.J. Taylor erupted for 284 yards and two scores in the win over Oregon State on Sept. 22, but has just 123 scoreless yards on 33 carries in two games since. Look for the Wildcats to try and get the run game going against Utah, which could mean some first-quarter struggles, with the Utes limiting opponents to a scant 75.4 yards per game – the third-lowest rate in the league. We recommend taking the under on Arizona's first-quarter total.
Prediction: Arizona Under 2.5 first-quarter points (-110)
While the Wildcats are a good bet to endure some growing pains as they look to establish the run, the Utes have their own problems on offense. Through five games, Utah has made just 13 trips to the red zone – and only seven of those possessions have resulted in touchdowns. Arizona has operated one of the stingiest red-zone defenses in all of Division I, allowing points on just 15 of opponents' 21 trips inside the 20-yard line. Barring some big plays on either side, this should be a low-scoring opening half, making the under on the first-half total a tantalizing option.
Prediction: Under 26 first-half total (-110)
Arizona's first legitimate road test in conference play will be a tough one for quarterback Khalil Tate, who is dealing with a nagging ankle injury that has severely hampered his running ability. After compiling an absurd 1,411 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017, Tate has just 44 rushes for 109 yards and a pair of scores through the first five games this season. Against USC and California the past two weeks, Tate has passed for just 373 total yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. The Utah defense will provide yet another major challenge, one that should keep the Wildcats below their team total.
Prediction: Arizona under 17.5 points (-120)
The total for this game is based largely on Utah's ability to put up points – but it remains to be seen whether the Utes can increase their red-zone presence after failing to do so with regularity in their first five games. While Utah has cashed the over in six of its previous eight conference games, it has gone below the number in five of its previous six following a straight-up victory. And Arizona comes in with strong under trends, having gone under the total in five consecutive games against Pac-12 opponents and boasting a 1-5 mark in their previous six contests overall. We suggest leaning toward the under.
Prediction: Under 51.5 (-110)
Even if the Wildcats weren't dealing with a hobbled quarterback and an eroding running game, they're still one of the worst road cover options on the road, having gone a dreadful 3-13 ATS in their previous 16 games away from Arizona Stadium. The Utes are well-positioned to make things hard on Tate, who has completed just 54 percent of his passes to date. And Utah has a red-hot rusher in Zack Moss who has 266 yards in his past two contests while riding a five-game touchdown streak; he should open things up nicely for Utah's passing game. The Utes might not put up 30+ points, but their stout defense should allow them to cover.
Prediction: Utah -13.5 (-110)