Pre-season Outlook for Utah Football

Rice Eccles Stadium 2

Pre-season Outlook for Utah Football


The University of Utah is set to open their season Thursday night at home against Michigan in what will be one of the most anticipated games of the opening weekend of college football. Expectations are high after the Utes went 8-4 last year and won their bowl game as well. They have several key players returning this year. So what are realistic expectations?

  • I believe Utah will be an even better football team this year but may win the same number of games. It’s important to remember Utah won several close ones last year. It is quite possible a few of those games don’t go their way this year and they end up only 7-5 or 8-4 again.
  • I heard a crazy stat on the radio a few weeks ago that Utah had not beaten a Pac-12 opponent by more than a touchdown in the past two years. It is true. Those numbers speak to how good the Pac-12 is. The conference is easily the second best after the SEC and the Pac-12 South has five incredible teams. Colorado is the only non-powerhouse in the division.
  • Close games and all, I think Utah is talented enough to be a top 15 or even top 10 team. As mentioned, their schedule is very difficult again but if they get some breaks, they could go 9-3 or something awesome like that. However, those breaks are gonna need to be created by improved offensive play.
  • The Utes have been and will be one of the best defensive teams in the country again this year. They have built their reputation on solid defensive line play and that has really spread to the entire defense. They have so many guys that can flat out fly – and they hit hard and inflict punishment on opposing offenses. They are really fun to watch. Since the Utes have moved to the Pac-12 they of course get a lot more national coverage and every time I hear a national media type or a guy from the Pac-12 Network talk about Utah – they always say how solid their defense is. And it’s not lip service. Utah has physically beat up plenty of Pac-12 schools. The proof is also in the number of defensive guys that are getting drafted each year.
  • As mentioned though, the key to the entire season is going to be if they can finally find some offensive consistency. Their offense has been bad for the past several years. And I don’t say that for effect. Though I think Kyle Whittingham is one of the better coaches in the entire country, he has overseen season after season of offensive ineptitude (particularly in the passing game) ever since Brian Johnson graduated.
    • Blame it on poor quarterback play
    • Blame it on poor quarterback health
    • Blame it on poor quarterback recruiting
    • Blame it on poor play calling
    • Blame it on the ever-revolving door of offensive coordinators
    • Who is the one constant in all this? The head coach.
  • I’m just not sure things are going to change. I’ve got nothing against Travis Wilson and I think he’s a nice athlete and a great competitor. I just don’t see him consistently throwing for 275 yards per game. And back-up Kendal Thompson we already know is not a great passer. Kaelin Clay made a lot of people forget how bad Utah’s offense was last year because he made so many electrifying special teams plays. It remains to be seen who that guy will be this year.
  • When push comes to shove – just like Bronco and BYU are gonna turn Taysom Hill loose when things get tight – Whit is gonna do the same at Utah. If they get into tight conference games, you know they’re gonna max out Devontae Booker and play the field position game with their incredible defense and special teams.
  • That’s not bad, it could just be so much cooler and bigger. If Utah has even an average passing attack, they could be scary good. (see top 10 comment above). I think their program is that solid.
  • Will the loss of Defensive Coordinator Kalani Sitake hurt? Yes it will, but not this year. I think they will lose some recruiting battles going forward. As for in-game, sure they will miss his intensity but the defense is still really Kyle’s.
  • Will Devontae Booker rush for/accumulate 2000 yards like everyone is talking about? I don’t think so. Remember John White IV in his senior season? He could not duplicate the amazing junior year he had. Same with Booker – the guy is an amazing talent. I just think he will be keyed on by too many defenses, his body may not hold up and it will be tough to duplicate the incredible season he had last year. It was off the charts (1875 all purpose yards in 2014 and he really didn’t even get going till the 3rd or 4th game). Other guys are gonna have to emerge this year.
  • Will the fact that the BYU rivalry game is not being played matter? Not really. It will be back next year and both schools have so many big games on their schedules that there’s plenty to sink their teeth into. That said, I’ve lived in Salt Lake long enough now to know that every BYU and Utah fan’s second favorite pastime is seeing what the other school is doing. It’s a fantastic college football market. Utah has certainly pulled ahead in terms of talent and their focus is clearly on bettering themselves in the Pac-12. Now it’s time for the Utes to step up and really do something special.
  • Regardless of record – the season is gonna be a blast. The atmosphere at Rice Eccles is amazing. The team has really built some momentum and they are gonna get off to a fun start by handling Harbaugh and Michigan in a prime time game on Thursday. We’ll see where they can go from there.

Matt Nielson has been writing about the college sports landscape in Utah and the Intermountain West since 2010. When he’s not pretending to be a professional blogger, he works full time as a residential real estate agent and house flipper. Matt graduated from Brigham Young University in 2000. He and his family reside in Salt Lake City, UT.


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