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Utah doesn't win Pac-12 openers (0-4). It doesn't win in Eugene (4-11) or Seattle (0-8), or anywhere, for that matter, against Arizona State (losing 11 straight).

And Utah doesn't beat Arizona when its head coach is Rich Rodriguez (0-3).

The No. 10 Utes have defied four of five trends on their way to 8-1 and first in the Pac-12 South, and while they may be 6-point favorites in Tucson on Saturday, Kyle Whittingham said the memory of the last three meetings gives Utah "no chance of us overlooking these guys."

"We've got to get our best," he said Monday.

Last year, in a Senior Day downpour, no less, they got their worst. Utah's offense turned it over four times — twice returned for touchdowns — and Utah's defense yielded 520 yards even though Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon left the game at halftime with a foot injury.

"It just sucked," said senior running back Devontae Booker. "The weather sucked. Our play sucked. It was just pretty much all of the above. It's absolutely motivation for us because we remember what happened to us last year. We got embarrassed out here on our home field."

That Utah beat Washington, which had just beaten Arizona 49-3, suggests a distinct advantage, but Arizona held a 3-point lead entering the fourth quarter before falling to USC at the Coliseum on Saturday — more competitive than the Utes were in their lone loss.

The reigning South champs have no chance to repeat. The Wildcat pass defense has been sorely lacking (276 yards per game) and Arizona has forced just nine turnovers in 10 games. Still, the Wildcats' next win makes them bowl-eligible, and their ground game has at least been as advertised.

Most notable in last year's box score is that Nick Wilson carried 20 times for 218 yards and three scores, Arizona's third 200-yard rushing performance against Utah in as many years.

Rodriguez's zone-read attack — more so, even, than Oregon's — has given Utah fits.

"The O-line play is exceptional," Whittingham said. "They are very well-coached on the offensive line. Rich Rod has got a great grasp of the spread run game."

Three Wildcats have more than 600 rushing yards: Wilson (691), Jared Baker (622) and change-of-pace quarterback Jerrard Randall (683 on just 70 carries), as Arizona ranks 11th nationally with 245 yards per game.

But Wilson, battling knee and foot ailments, has missed three of four games, and Arizona was also without towering guards Freddie Tagaloa and Jacob Alsadek (6-foot-8 and 6-foot-7, respectively) in Los Angeles. The seeming result: a season-low 60 yards.

The status of all three was unknown Monday, and Rodriguez didn't blame injury for Saturday's struggles.

"One, that was [USC]," he said. "They're pretty good up front. And two, we didn't execute well."

Asked about the uncertainty caused by injuries, Whittingham said he is also mindful of the alternation of Randall and sophomore quarterback Anu Solomon, who has thrown for more than 2,000 yards with 16 touchdowns and just three interceptions despite falling somewhat short of the expectations he created as a redshirt freshman.

The personnel won't change the Utes' approach too much, Whittingham said: They know from firsthand experience Arizona is likely to build off of the run.

"We have not done a good job, no matter what the circumstances have been the last three years against those guys, so we've got to focus on us and make sure we're gap-sound and doing the things we need to do to play good defense," he said.

Utah has, at least, been especially sound this year against the run. The Utes have conceded just 114 yards per game — 17th in the nation — down from 147 last season.

Rodriguez said he's observed that Utah has mixed up its defensive front more often in John Pease's first year as defensive coordinator. Whittingham simply credited it to stepped-up play and solid scheming.

Utah has gotten its best, so far. It requires more of it. —

No. 10 Utah at Arizona

8 p.m. Saturday in Tucson, Arizona

TV • FOX Sports 1; Radio • ESPN 700 —

200-yard Wildcat rushers vs. Utah

2014 • Nick Wilson, 20 carries for 218 yards and three touchdowns

2013 • Ka'Deem Carey, 39 carries for 239 yards and one touchdown

2012 • Carey, 26 carries for 204 yards and one touchdown