On Saturday (11/18/23), Utah faces Arizona in an intriguing Pac 12 matchup. In this article, find the latest betting odds for the game and a full matchup preview. In addition, find our best bet which is the Arizona moneyline.
Utah Utes Vs. Arizona Wildcats Prediction
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham deserves a ton of credit for his team’s perseverance this season. The Utes have somehow stayed afloat with a 7-3 overall record despite QB Cameron Rising, RB Micah Bernard, and TE Brant Kuithe have all missed the entirety of the season. He should be a top candidate for the AP Coach of the Year award.
A team with an offense ranked outside the top 100 in EPA per play and 118th in finishing drives has found a way to stay afloat throughout most of the season. However, it all came crashing down in the second half against Washington last week. After generating 28 points and 306 yards in the first half to build an early lead, the Utes didn’t score and picked up just 76 yards after halftime.
While I have the utmost respect for Whittingham and his staff, it will be tough for the Utes to pick themselves up off the mat on the road here. Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch is a Coach of the Year candidate in his own right for elevating his team to a 7-3 record. The Wildcats are going bowling for the first time since 2017 and are two wins away from their first nine-win campaign since 2014.
Arizona’s defense has been excellent, particularly against the run, where Utah has found most of its offense with Bryson Barnes’s passing effectiveness rather limited. The Wildcats are seventh in run defense EPA, which is in stark contrast to Utah who ranks 100th on offense. Arizona’s front seven is led by linebacker Jacob Manu, who leads the team with 54 tackles and 32 run stops per PFF.
The Arizona offense lacks elite explosiveness, but freshman Noah Fifita has been highly efficient. The Wildcats rank 12th in passing success rate and have two excellent wide receivers with Tetairoa McMillan and Jacob Cowing. Utah’s defense is top 20 against the pass by EPA, but I’ll bet on Fifita getting traction at home much sooner than I will on Barnes on the road.
These teams aren’t that different in terms of overall identity and strengths and weaknesses go, which is reflected in the spread being a pick ‘em. However, in this war between elite coaches in Whittingham and Fisch, I’ll bet on the home team with the better quarterback in my estimation. Arizona’s Pac 12 title hopes are hanging on by a thread, but they win here to keep them alive for one more week.
Utah Vs. Arizona Prediction: Arizona ML
Utah Vs. Arizona Best Odds
The oddsmakers aren’t quite sure what to do with this game as Arizona can be found anywhere from +1.5 to -1 depending on the book you are using. It will be interesting to monitor throughout the week if action pushes this spread in one direction or another. With an over/under of 45 points, the expectation is for these stout defenses to carry the day.
Utah Vs. Arizona Key Matchups
While Utah and Arizona aren’t quite making a push for the College Football Playoff this season, they’re two of the better teams in a Pac 12 conference loaded from top to bottom. Let’s break down some of the key matchups that will help decide the winner of this conference game.
Noah Fifita Vs. Utah’s Pass Defense
When Jayden de Laura went down earlier in the season, Arizona turned to redshirt freshman Noah Fifita. A three star recruit, Fifita was relatively unheralded, and at 5’10”, 170 lbs, it’s easy to see how he was overlooked. However, Fifita has put any size concerns to rest as he has thrown for 16 touchdowns to just four interceptions through six starts.
Fifita has dueled with Michael Penix Jr. and Caleb Williams, thrown for three touchdowns against the vaunted UCLA defense, and led Arizona to four straight wins. This will be one of his tougher tests as Utah’s pass defense has been excellent, ranking top 20 by EPA and success rate. Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley is one of the best in the country.
Noah Fifita : 21/35 for 214 yards, 2 TD's & a 130.2 QB Rating (4-2 as a starter this season) pic.twitter.com/C6WjC1tJsr
— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life) November 11, 2023
Ja’Quinden Jackson Vs. Arizona’s Run Defense
The loss of quarterback Cam Rising for the season has hurt Utah’s ability to field a balanced offense, and the burden has been on the shoulders of running back Ja’Quinden Jackson, who has 122 carries for 627 yards this season. However, Jackson was quiet against Washington last week with just ten carries for 29 yards (2.9 YPC).
Arizona has one of the most fundamentally sound defenses in college football, ranking seventh in rushing EPA/play allowed. Along with Utah’s Scalley, Arizona defensive coordinator Johnny Nansen is a Broyles Award finalist as one of the best assistant coaches in the country, and he won’t make it easy for Jackson here.
Nice TD run from Ja'Quinden Jackson pic.twitter.com/Py8GzbHvcK
— Ian Valentino (@NFLDraftStudy) November 11, 2023