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Keys to the game: Utah vs. Arizona

By Shane Roberts, ksl.com Contributor | Posted - Nov 17th, 2012 @ 11:00am



SALT LAKE CITY - Head Coach Kyle Whittingham and everyone around the media and the Ute program keep saying how the Utah football team backs are against the wall.

I'd say that their back is more up against the edge of a cliff.

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Being one game away from being eliminated from post season consideration, Utah's season is on the brink. A rope to pull Utah away from the ledge is dangling out there for the Utes.

That rope would be Rice-Eccles Stadium. Utah is 4-1 at Rice-Eccles so far this year, with that lone loss coming to Matt Barkley and his crew at USC.

Those are the only four wins Utah has on the season. Utah's opponent this Saturday, Arizona, has yet to win a game away from home.

Utah needs to win some key areas to get a win closer to bowl eligibility.

1. Control the pace

It has been well documented that Arizona how one of the most potent offenses in the Pac-12 conference. Rich Rod has brought his high power spread offense to Tucson, and he's getting results. However, on the flip side of the ball, Arizona's defense is one of the worse in the conference. That gives Utah a great advantage, because they have one big ace in their pocket right now. John White appears to have returned to being the Wolfman of old. Over the last three games Juan Blanco has been averaging 116 yards per game. If White can get rolling again against the Wildcats, the Utes can keep Arizona's offense on the sideline. The longer the Wildcat offense is on the sideline, the better for the Utes.

2. Travis Wilson has to perform

The 55 yards in the air on 8/23 passing Travis Wilson had against Washington is not going to cut it, anywhere, anytime. Wilson will be critical in keeping the defense honest. Utah will be facing a lot of loaded boxes to try and stop John White. This will open up opportunities for Travis Wilson to make plays down the field, to the likes of Jake Murphy and Kenneth Scott. Fortunately for Wilson, he is back home where he has played well. Wilson will also have to be good on 3rd down. Utah was 1/13 on third down, much of that failure was based on Wilson not being able to make big plays. If he can have a consistent performance through four quarters, he will help keep this offense balanced and keep pressure off the Utah defense.

3. Defense needs to make big plays

This has been something I have been harping on this entire season. The defense, more often than not, has been good, but it hasn't made enough momentum plays. Against the Wildcats, Utah's defense has to make some plays. Not just three and outs, they have to put the offense in short fields and help jump start the offense. Arizona's offense also has run 90+ plays many games. If Utah can take away those extra possessions and plays, they can disrupt Arizona's rhythm and dictate the pace of the game. It all starts up front, if Star and the crew can live in the backfield, big plays will be out there to be had.

Kyle Whittingham and the Utes have played well traditionally through the years when they have been counted out, and their backs have been against the wall.

Saturday it is strength on strength, Arizona's offense against Utah's defense. Which ever one of the two can win out will win the game. This is the game where Utah's stars need to be stars.

Because they are running out of time, just like this season.

Shane Roberts is a producer/writer for the U Fan Cast on TheUFanCast.com, a Utah-centric podcast that gives a voice to the fan. Twitter: @Shane_U_FanCast

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