Utah more than held its own last season in its first year in a BCS conference. Now in its second season as part of the Pac-12 the Utes are looking to do more than just compete; the team has the talent to become a dark horse contender for the Pac-12 crown.
Utah has almost immediately garnered the respect of the conference after one season of play. The team was pegged to finish second in the Pac 12 South Division behind USC in the preseason media poll.
Kyle Whittingham enters his eighth season as head coach at Utah after taking over for Urban Meyer after the 2004 season. Whittingham is 66-25 at Utah and 39-18 in conference play. If you count the 2004 Fiesta Bowl he co-coached with Meyer, Whittingham has two BCS bowl wins to his credit with the other one being the 2008 Sugar Bowl against Alabama.
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Whittingham has picked up where Meyer has left off. The program has been to nine consecutive bowl games and won a remarkable eight of those nine, including the two BCS bowl games by an average of 21 points.
Talk of the offense begins with quarterback Jordan Wynn, the 22-year-old junior who will start his fourth season opener. His career at Utah has been riddled by injury, hence the reason Wynn has another year of eligibility after this season.
He has throw 31 touchdowns for more than 4,300 yards in his three years at Utah, but the real story has been the injuries. Last year he was fantastic in starting the season 2-1, including a near shocker at USC that ended on a blocked field goal. However, an injury to his non-throwing left shoulder in the fourth game of the season cost Wynn the rest of the year.
The offense struggled, ranking 109th in total yards, 99th in passing yards, 80th in rushing yards and 75th in scoring. Those offensive numbers are simply not acceptable in the Pac-12. A healthy Wynn and the return of nine starters, including leading wide receiver DeVonte Christopher and leading rusher John White IV, will bolster the offense.
The Utah defense will allow the Utes to compete with anyone in the Pac-12 this season. The unit is a special group and the likely reason why the stud of the group, senior nose tackle Star Lotulelei, did not opt to enter the NFL Draft where he was projected as a first-round pick.
At 6-foot-4, 320 pounds, Lotulelei gives the Utah defense something to build on. However, the Utah defense is stacked with quality playmakers.
Junior Trevor Reilly anchors an experienced corps of linebackers. Reilly had five sacks and eight tackles for a loss last season. The secondary, with returning safety Brian Blechen and cornerback Ryan Lacy, likes to play takeaway. The duo combined for five interceptions last season but also for 129 tackles, which is more tackles than defensive backs should be making. The secondary was gouged for 237 yards per game through the air, 74th in the nation. However, the run defense more than made up for it, only allowing 114 yards per game.
Overall the defense allowed only 20 points per game last season, 19th in the country. Any time you are holding teams to 20 points per game in the Pac-12 you give your team a good chance to win.
2012 Utah Football Schedule Analysis
The Utah conference schedule does the team plenty of favors. The Utes get to avoid Oregon and Stanford and they get to host USC on a Thursday night primetime kickoff.
But there are some negatives to the schedule like road trips to Arizona State and Washington, their second and third toughest games of the season, respectively.
Out of conference, Utah should be okay with home games against Northern Colorado and BYU and a road trip to rival Utah State.
2012 Utah Utes Futures Odds
Utah is a +45,000 long shot to win the National Championship on 5Dimes and +3700 to win the Pac 12. The Utes, however, are only +1300 to win the Pac-12 South , the second-best odds behind only USC (-810). In future college football point spreads, Utah is +14 at home against USC. Their college football season win total is 7.5 games with the “over” priced at -180 and the “under” priced at +140 on 5Dimes. Individually, Lotulelei is +17,500 and White IV is +20,000 to win the Heisman Trophy.
2012 Utah Utes Football Predictions
If the Utah defense can duplicate last year’s performance and the offense makes strides under a healthy Wynn, then Utah can hang with anyone in the conference and likely blow out a few of the cellar-dwellers too.
The scary thing for Utah is the schedule. Having to play three of their first four conference games on the road (and considering the one home game is USC) there is always the intimidating thought of starting conference play slow like they did last year, starting 0-4.
But the team learned some lessons last year and they come into the season having won five of their last six games. There is extra juice on it at -180 but the play with Utah is over 7.5 wins and also a small play on them to win the conference at +3700, which is banking on a USC Thursday primetime conference slip up in a road game, which seems to happen once a year.
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