The Arizona Wildcats are realistic about their chances of winning the Pac-12 South, keeping their attention only on Utah.
“Right now, we’re just trying to focus on the Utah game coming up this weekend. We need a little help to win the south, but if we don’t win the rest of our games, it doesn’t even matter. We need to keep our focus on this week,” said offensive lineman Mickey Baucus.
The No. 15 Wildcats (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) are among four teams with two conference losses apiece atop the division. But the way the tie-breakers shake out, Arizona would need more than just victories in the final two games.
UCLA is the only team among the group that controls its own destiny, needing wins in its last two, this weekend against USC at the Rose Bowl and again at home in the finale against Stanford. The Trojans and Arizona State are also in the mix.
“We have to understand the challenges in front of us, but we are playing meaningful games in November,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “With two games to go, we still have a lot at stake and hopefully that will help get our guys focused and excited to prepare for a huge battle at Salt Lake City.”
Although the chances are slim, No. 20 Utah (7-3, 4-3) still has a chance to take the division too, but needs A LOT of help from other teams. Regardless of the eventual outcome, the Utes are going to a bowl game after a two-year drought as the team made the transition into the Pac-12.
“It’s been disappointing the last couple of years that our seniors have not been able to have that bowl experience. This group is going to,” coach Kyle Whittingham said. “It’s a group that really is, as most senior groups are, the backbone of this football team, from a lot of different standpoints, particularly the leadership. We’ve had leadership on this football team that is as good as anything that we’ve ever had here.”
Here are some other things to look for when the Wildcats visit Utah on Saturday:
HONORS: Utah DT Nate Orchard had 10 tackles, including 2.5 sacks, and forced a fumble in the victory over Stanford to earn Pac-12 defensive player of the week honors. Overall, Orchard leads the nation in sacks per game with 1.65, and he has 16.5 sacks overall.
HONORS ON THE OTHER SIDE: Arizona kicker Casey Skowron kicked a 47-yard field goal as time ran out to give the Wildcats a 27-26 victory over the Huskies. In all, he hit two field goals, made three extra points and scored on a fake field goal during the game to earn Pac-12 special teams player of the week.
CLOSE ONES: Utah has won two overtime games this season on the road: at Oregon State and Stanford. “We haven’t won every close game, we know that, but these guys believe that they are going to win every game that they are in. When it comes right down to the wire, there is a lot of belief on our team that they are going to get it done. And they have most weeks,” Whittingham said.
FANTASTIC FROSH: Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon has thrown for 3,058 yards and 25 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He’s also rushed for 307 yards. But in the Wildcats’ 27-26 victory last weekend against Washington, he admitted to Rodriguez that his ankle was bothering him. “It is probably been hurting him more than he has let on. He has been getting treatment, has not missed a practice and has been running around pretty well,” Rodriguez said.
THE LAST TIME: Ka’Deem Carey ran for 232 yards on a school-record 39 carries, including a 44-yard touchdown dash with 1:30 left that sealed the victory, in the Wildcats’ 35-24 win last year over the Utes in Tucson. The loss deflated Utah after a stunning victory over then-No. 5 Stanford, and quarterback Travis Wilson left the game after an injury to his right hand late in the first half.
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