Utah Utes Odds to win the College Football National Championship with Expert Betting Predictions
Utah always seems to feel like one of those teams that isn't a real threat to break out of the middle of the pack in the Pac-12 but which no team looks forward to playing - especially in Salt Lake City. They are well-coached, defensively-stout, and they have a few wrinkles on a generally average offense to keep you guessing. Good teams know they should beat Utah, but they always fear that they might not. And with a returning coaching staff, a lot of returning players, and a manageable schedule, Utah should be more of the same - or, they have to hope, perhaps more.
2017 in a Nutshell
They started out 4-0, beating North Dakota, BYU, San Jose State and Arizona, and climbed to 20th in the polls. It was a great start, but then they threw it away with four losses - the first two being heart-breaking. They lost by a field goal to Stanford then by a single point at USC. Either would have been a huge, momentum-building win. Then they lost two in uglier fashion - by 20 to Arizona State and by 21 at Oregon. They destroyed UCLA but then lost to Washington State and then at Washington. That meant they needed to beat Colorado in the finale to become bowl eligible, and they did so soundly. Their assignment was the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and they beat a West Virginia team that looked as disinterested in playing as I can ever remember a program not playing their bowl game under an interim coach.
Key Additions and Departures
Given the coaching turmoil in the Pac-12 lately, Utah is shockingly stable. The entire coaching staff returns from last year. The new 10th coach is former Utah State, Wisconsin and Oregon State head coach Gary Andersen, who joins as associate head coach and defensive tackle coach, and even he is far from new - he has had two prior stints at Utah, one beside Kyle Whittingham and one under him.
Tyler Huntley started 10 games last year at QB and is back as a junior to take a step forward from what was a fine-but-not-thrilling season. True freshman Jack Tuttle will be looking to back him up and hopefully challenge him for playing time. Running back is a position of experience and talent and will be asked to do a lot this year. The top two receivers are gone, so the changes here will be significant. An interesting figure to watch is Britain Covey, who led the team in yards in 2015 but then left for his two-year Mormon mission. If he hasn't lost his game then he could be a big boost. The offensive line returns four starters and has several options at left guard. It wasn't a great line last year, but all four of those starters were first-year guys, so there is certainly upside now.
The defensive line didn't create as much pressure as would have been ideal last year, but they are hoping that experience is the key this year - end Kylie Fitts was the only Utah player drafted, but the rest of the line is back. The depth at tackle is particularly promising. Linebacker is wide open, but Juco transfer Bryant Pirtle and converted safety Chase Hansen are both promising players in the mix. They have almost an embarrassment of depth in the secondary, with corner in particular being loaded.
Biggest Area of Concern
Huntley isn't a QB who is going to win games on his own, so the lack of established figures at receiver has to be a big concern for this offense. The running game will be good, but it will be better if the receivers can be a legitimate counter point, and that isn't certain out of the gate.
Utah Utes Schedule Analysis
They open with Weber state and then at Northern Illinois. Those games need to help them work out the kinks because things get real in a hurry after that. They host Washington in Week 3 in a very likely loss, then after a bye they travel to a rebuilding Washington State before a trip to a Stanford team that is going to be strong offensively. Arizona should be decent under Kevin Sumlin, and then USC is the class of their division. It's hard to know what kind of effort either UCLA or Arizona State will be capable of in their transition seasons, but both games are on the road so the Utes will have to be ready. Oregon is also a tougher team to judge, but then Colorado and BYU should finish things off well for the Utes.
2018-19 Utah Utes Betting Odds and Trends
Utah is at +25000 to win the national title at Bovada - right behind Oklahoma State and ahead of Arizona, for context. They are tied with Arizona as the fifth choice to win the Pac-12 at +1600 and are the third choice in the Pac-12 North at +450 behind Arizona and strong favorite USC. The season win total sits at seven, with the "over" slightly favored.
2018-19 Utah Utes Predictions and College Football Picks
I wish I felt better about the offense. I like the stability, and I like some pieces, but as a whole I'm not sure of what they will have. Six wins feels like a floor, so they should be bowl bound. But I am not certain whether they will stop there or if they can climb as high as nine or even 10 if things went perfectly. We need to see this team in action before we know what they are, which is frustratingly true of too much of the Pac-12 right now to make bettors happy.
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