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SALT LAKE CITY - Cal and Utah have many things in common going into Saturday's game in Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Without a doubt, there is one common denominator that both teams can acknowledge, this is a MUST win game. Both teams have five losses, and have dug themselves into an undesirable hole.
The team with that sixth loss has to win out to make a bowl game. This may be an elimination game for the loser.
For Utah to avoid being on the brink of postseason elimination, they must do three things
1. Fast start is a must
Travis Wilson has done a nice job to open the last two games against UCLA and Oregon State. To open both games, he has lead the offense down the field and threatened to score, but in both games Wilson and the offense sputtered out and turned the ball over. Against Cal, Utah must get points on the board early. This will allow the defense to play more free, and it could possibly take a bit of the monkey off of Brian Johnson's back and his offense's back. 2. Pressure Maynard
It's been pretty well documented on Utah's struggles to get interceptions. This is the quarterback that Utah could force into those mistakes. Cal's offensive line has been inconsistent, and Maynard has proven that when pressured he will force the ball into tight coverage. It will be critical that Utah's front four can into the backfield and make Maynard uncomfortable. Defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake has to bring different looks to the table to keep Maynard guessing. Utah's defense played a great game last week, and they need to keep that momentum. 3. Get the ground game rolling
Utah's run game has been flirting with taking off the last few weeks. If Utah could rely on John White and Kelvin York throughout the game, that will take a ton of pressure off of Travis Wilson. Utah will have a home field advantage, the weather turning cold could become a factor. As the game goes along, if Utah can have a successful running attack, they could grind Cal's defense down, especially in colder conditions. If between York and White, Utah has 35-40 carries, the Utes will be dictating the line of scrimmage and the game. There will be two desperate teams on the field. One could be playing for the future of their coach, Jeff Tedford. A key for both teams could be, which team can play desperate without panicking.
Ute fans every where are curious about one thing, is this the week Utah turns it around?
If they don't this week, going 4 and 0 the rest of the season is a daunting task, especially with a trip to Seattle on the docket. Utah is 3-1 in the "black out" game, getting to 4-1 will be huge in beginning to turn around the season.