The Pac-12 Conference’s most dangerousdual-threat quarterbacks will duel in the desert on Friday, when No. 21 Utahvisits Arizona. The game also will serve as the Pac-12 opener for both teams,who just completed winning non-conference seasons.
Utah sophomore Tyler Huntley is second in theconference and 10th nationally in total offense at 360 yards pergame and has accounted for eight total touchdowns, including a team-high three via the rush. Arizona junior Brandon Dawkins, meanwhile, leads all Pac-12 quarterbackswith 83.7 rushing yards per contest and has accounted for nine total TDs,including five on the ground. Overall, the Wildcats rank sixth nationally with328 rushing yards per contest while Utah counters with the nation’ssecond-stingiest rushing defense to date at 49.3 yards. “(Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez) has a great grasp of offensive scheme,” Utah coach Kyle Whittinghamsaid during his news conference on Monday. “He knows exactly what he wants to do, andit starts with the run game with those guys. They run the read zone as well asanyone in the country, and they have a quarterback who is an exceptionalrunner. … That’s going to be job No. 1 for us this week, like it is every week.”
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, FS1. LINE: Utah -3
ABOUT UTAH (3-0): The Utes are coming off theirfifth straight undefeated non-conference season and are now looking to wintheir Pac-12 opener for the third straight campaign. Wide receiver Darren Carrington II,a transfer from Oregon, has struck up an immediate bond with Huntley as they’vehooked up 26 times for 409 yards and four TDs so far. On the other side of the ball,linebacker Sunia Tauteoli (team-high 18 tackles) and safety Chase Hansen (14)lead a unit which is tops in the conference in total defense (246 yards) andturnovers forced (nine), including six interceptions.
ABOUT ARIZONA (2-1): The Wildcats bounced backfrom a 19-16 loss to Houston with a 63-16 rout of host UTEP last week asDawkins threw for three touchdowns and added three more on the ground whilerolling up 288 yards of total offense. Senior Nick Wilson (63 yards per game)and redshirt freshman J.J. Taylor (62) form a potent 1-2 punch in the backfield while tight end Bryce Wolma (11 receptions, 79 yards, one touchdown) and slot receiver ShunBrown (eight, 126, one) are the leading pass-catchers. Linebacker Tony Fields II is theleading tackler (17) on a defense that is allowing 387.7 yards but has forcedseven turnovers.
1. Arizona holds a 4-2 series edge since Utahjoined the Pac-12 in 2011, but the Utes posted a 36-23 win last season in Salt LakeCity.
2. Hansen missed last week’s triumph over San Jose Statewith an undisclosed injury, and his status for Friday’s contest likely won’t beknown until just before kickoff.
3. Utah has a decided edge in the kicking game, with MattGay a perfect 11-for-11 on both field-goal and extra-point attempts so far, while2016 Ray Guy Award winner Mitch Wishnowsky ranks fifth nationally in net yardage (45.4).
PREDICTION: Utah 34, Arizona 27