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Defensive line and linebackers
Utah has continued to dominate up front with pressure from its front seven, skyrocketing to the top of the conference with 20 total sacks. Nate Orchard was a beast against Stanford, racking up two sacks and two tackles for loss, bringing the Utes’ total to a staggering 40 tackles for loss on top of the 20 sacks. The Utes have 11 players with at least one sack and 14 with at least one tackle for loss. Led by Orchard, Tenny Palepoi, Trevor Reilly and Jacoby Hale, Utah should have even more success against Arizona this week.
Arizona has had a hard time getting to the quarterback this season, ranking last in sacks with six. Even more alarming, the Wildcats have zero sacks against Pac-12 opponents and half of their sacks came against Northern Arizona in the season opener. Tevin Hood and Sione Tuihalamaka are the guys to watch for the Wildcats. The duo have combined for one sack and 6.5 tackles for loss.
The Utes pass defense held up well enough against Stanford, despite surrendering 246 yards and having trouble containing receiver Ty Montgomery. Utah ranks 10th out of 12 teams in pass defense in the conference and has surrendered 10 touchdowns through the air, tied for eighth worse in the Pac-12. Luckily for the Utes, Arizona’s offense is predicated on the running game, and the pass rush has helped disguise some deficiencies on the back end.
The Wildcats’ biggest strength on defense this season has been in the passing game. Led by senior corner Shaquille Richardson and junior safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant, the Wildcats rank first in the Pac-12 in holding opposing passers to only completing 56.3 percent of their attempts per game. Arizona has seven interceptions this season and has held opposing teams to only five touchdowns this season through the air, tied for second in the Pac-12 with Washington.
Travis Wilson will have to avoid turning over the ball against arguably the toughest pass defense he’ll face this season. The Utes will have to contain Carey and keep him out of the end zone. He’ll get his yardage, but Utah will have to stop him from scoring more than once. The difference will be Denker’s shortcomings in the passing game. If Utah can pressure him and get a few turnovers, it should take this one on the road 31-27.
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