Utah Offensive Preview

Utah Offensive Preview

Utah will likely rely on the run game against Arizona on Saturday. Read on for a complete breakdown of the Utah offense, including the keys to stopping it and players to watch.

Arizona hits the road to take on Utah this Saturday night in a contest that has significant meaning for both squads. For the Wildcats, a victory positions them for a better bowl game while the Utes need the win to simply stay in bowl contention.

UA faces an offensive attack that ranks second from the bottom in the Pac-12 in total yards per game and has struggled with consistency throughout the season. It all started when the team lost starting quarterback Jordan Wynn and opted for Jon Hays, who couldn't hold the job down.

The Utes will go with freshman Travis Wilson under center this weekend. Wilson has looked strong at times while inconsistent at others, but that should be expected from a freshman.

He is also coming off his worst game in college this past weekend against Washington. The Utah quarterback completed just 34.8 percent of his passes while throwing for a mere 55 yards in the losing effort.

Wilson will rely heavily on the running game, which features senior John White -- a player who can cause problems for Arizona's inconsistent run defense. The running back was struggling up until Utah's last three games, but since then he has been able to surpass the century mark on the ground in each affair. White averages about 4.5 yards per carry and has rushed for seven touchdowns, so fans should expect to see a healthy dose of him Saturday night.

How the Wildcats defend White should determine the overall success Arizona has. UA is coughing up 187 yards per game on the ground - which ranks the Wildcats second from the bottom in the conference – and has surrendered over 200 yards on the ground in each of its last two contests.

The run is so essential for Utah's success mainly because its passing attack is ranked dead-last in the Pac-12. For the Utes to find any success offensively, they must take advantage of Arizona's struggling run defense. If White can come through and have another big game, Utah can certainly come away with a win in this game.

If not, Utah will find it too difficult to match Arizona's high-octane offense. Its passing game will be able to move the ball at times against UA, but there is not enough fire-power in the Utes offensive attack to match Arizona's pace.

Assuming Utah can move the ball on the ground, Utah's passing attack does have some respectable pieces that can cause problems for the Wildcats' defensive unit. Sophomore tight end Jake Murphy is the team's leading target in the passing attack, catching 29 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns. Arizona has struggled at times against opposing tight ends, so keeping Murphy from getting comfortable is a major key.

Sophomore wideouts Kenneth Scott and Dres Anderson are also bigger targets who give Wilson a couple of reliable threats. Scott has big-play potential and could be a target to pay attention to downfield. He has 22 receptions for 296 yards – an average of 13.5 yards per catch – and three touchdowns.

Anderson is a little smaller in stature, but he is quick and possesses a good set of hands. He may be averaging less than 10 yards per reception but, if he gets in space, he can make things happen with his feet.

The offensive line for Utah has been merely average-at-best for the majority of the campaign. While White has ran the ball well the last three contests, as a team, Utah is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry.

As for the pass protection, while it hasn't been awful, it hasn't exactly been excellent either. Utah has given up 25 sacks as a team, but luckily for the Utes, the Wildcats rank dead-last in the conference in that department.

Players to watch

#15 – RB, John White: The Utah run game has seen a pretty big boost in recent weeks due to White's play. Given how teams have run on Arizona this season, it wouldn't be surprising to see White receive a season-high in carries on Saturday.

#82 – TE, Jake Murphy: Murphy has the size and hands to make an impact at any point during the game. He has been the favorite target of Utah quarterbacks this season and that trend should continue against the Wildcats.

#6 – WR, Dres Anderson: If Utah can ever figure out how to consistently get Anderson involved, he could be a much more deadly player. His combination of hands and quickness are dangerous when up against a defense that has given up big plays to just about every opponent it has faced.

#2 – WR, Kenneth Scott: As a player with a big frame, Scott can use his body to out-muscle Arizona's secondary. He leads his team in yards per reception and, given how UA has allowed opposing quarterbacks to go deep frequently, it wouldn't be surprising to see Scott utilized down-field.

Five keys to the game

1. Stop the run: If Arizona can stop John White, it will beat Utah. That is going to be much easier said than done as the Wildcats have given up over 500 yards ground combined over the past two games.

2. Make Wilson uncomfortable: Wilson is still relatively inexperienced and with him coming off his toughest game in college, UA should test his confidence early. The Wildcats may not have had much success this season in terms of quarterback pressure, but it would be wise to at least attempt to bring it into the Utah backfield early and often.

3. Keep Utah's passing game short: The Utes have had difficulty passing with consistency and don't need gifts from Arizona's suspect pass defense. Long plays must be avoided or the defense could open up for Utah to run the ball consistently.

4. Overcome the road-trip: Arizona is 0-3 on the road this season and have looked lost at times; surprisingly on the offensive side of the ball. The Wildcats are an entirely different team away from Arizona Stadium, but – to be fair – Utah isn't exactly the caliber of football team that Oregon, Stanford or UCLA are.

If Arizona can get over the psychological hump of playing on the road and put points on the board throughout the contest, it will go a long way in securing a victory.

5. No free passes: The Wildcats did a good job of staying off the officials' radar against Colorado and picked up just four penalties n the process. That hasn't always been the case for UA, who has struggled with discipline at time in 2012. In order to fend off Utah, Arizona must avoid defeating itself in the process.

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