Utah Utes Odds to win the Pac-12 with Expert Betting Predictions
There are some things that just don't make any sense in the world of college football coaching. Total mysteries. For the longest time the biggest mystery was why Chris Petersen stayed at Boise State for as long as he did. Or why Gary Patterson has never left TCU. The biggest current question, though, is why someone hasn't emptied a sizable bank account to lure Kyle Whittingham out of Utah. The guy has been a coaching machine there for 13 years now, consistently overperforming against expectations even as a poor cousin in the Pac-12.
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As good as he has been, it wouldn't be tough to argue that the last three years have been the best of his career as he has gone 28-11 over the course of that stretch when most people outside of Utah expected much less. He's the real deal. But can he keep the train rolling this year?
2016 in a Nutshell
The season started out well. They swept the nonconference slate, highlighted by a narrow win over BYU in the Holy War. That got them into the rankings, and they moved up to 18th with a fourth win over USC. They then had a very regrettable loss at Cal but climbed to 7-1 with a win against Arizona and two at Oregon State and UCLA. They lost to Washington next time out, but they played very well in doing so. A convincing win over Arizona State then moved them to a season-high ranking of 11th. Unfortunately, they didn't finish strong, losing a regrettable home game against an Oregon squad that had already given up on the season and then losing at Colorado to finish the season. Losing those two really hurt, because two wins there would have won the division for them - they controlled their own destiny but couldn't handle the pressure of that. They shook off that disappointment, though, to win their bowl game against Indiana to close the season on a strong note.
Key Additions and Departures
There are big changes on offense. First, they have made a coaching change. They had a co-coordinator situation that wasn't working, so they ditched one guy and moved the other. The new coordinator is Troy Taylor, who had been quarterback coach for the very explosive Eastern Washington offense in FCS. He should bring much more creativity and spark to the offense, but there could be growing pains because Utah tended to run first in recent years, while EWU played like they were allergic to running.
Taylor has already made a change at QB. Last year's starter, Troy Williams, is a senior, but he has lost his starting gig to sophomore Tyler Huntley. The change happened just days after Williams had been voted a captain. Huntley takes over a team that has been gutted. Top running back Joe Williams is gone. Three of the top four receivers are gone. And guys who started 50 games on the line (out of a total of 65) are gone. Most costly, one of those missing linemen is Garrett Boles, the outstanding tackle who was drafted in the first round.
There are still plenty of concerns, but at least the receivers are in decent shape despite the change - and that will be important for Huntley and Taylor. There is some talent to work with, and Darren Carrington, who was the leading receiver at Oregon before being booted from the school for a DUI and other off-field issues, has joined the team and is eligible. Taylor has enough receivers, and the QB he wants, but that line must keep him awake at night.
Utah loses three very good players up front on defense, but they are so ridiculously deep there that it is still a position of strength for them. They will need some luck to find chemistry, but they have the pieces to be fine. The linebackers are largely intact, and that's a good thing. The secondary has gone through almost unbelievable change - seven of the top eight players last year are gone, and the eighth is out indefinitely due to injury. To deal with this, Whittingham has become very aggressive. He brought in three highly-rated JUCO players and landed a highly-rated high school recruit as well. It's tough to believe the secondary will be any good early in the season, but they probably don't need to be. If they can get things figured out quickly then they could be much improved later in the season when it will matter most.
Utah Utes Schedule Analysis
They will beat North Dakota and San Jose State, but the game at BYU sandwiched between those wins will be tough - winnable, but tough. They have another coin flip at Arizona and then two likely losses against Stanford then at USC. They should beat Arizona State at home, but then a trip to Oregon could be tough if the Ducks can get back on track this year. UCLA and Washington State at home are total coin flips, and the trip to Washington is all but certain to be a loss. And then a home game against Colorado should be winnable but won't to be easy. The ceiling seems to be nine wins, and I don't see them getting that high. They'll be bowl eligible, but they will struggle to be much better than that.
2017-18 Utah Utes Betting Odds and Trends
The Utes are not one of the 36 teams that BetOnline has national title futures odds listed for . At +2500 they are tied with Colorado as the seventh choice to win the Pac-12. They are the third choice to win the Pac-12 East at +1200, but with USC at -300 the Utes are at a very different level. The season win total is set at 6.5, with the "under" a slight favorite.
2017-18 Utah Utes Predictions and College Football Picks
I like the program and think they could be a pretty good team in 2018. This year, though, they are dealing with too much change and uncertainty and a schedule that is just too tough. I think they can win seven games, and they should be proud of that if they do so.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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