2010 Record: 10-3
2010 Bowl Result: Lost Las Vegas Bowl 26-3 to Boise St
2010 Against the Spread: 7-5-1
2010 over/under: 7-6
Returning Starters: 11 (6 offense, 5 defense)
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After years of being one of the biggest fish in the small pond of the Mountain West Conference, Utah is finally ready to swim with the big boys. Utah and Colorado have moved to the now Pac 12 conference. Utah finished last year with a 10-3 record but the three losses were to TCU, Notre Dame, and Boise St by a combined score of 101-13. Coach Kyle Whittingham returns 11 starters and was voted to finish 3rd in the Pac 12 South division behind USC and Arizona St. USC in on probation and ineligible to play in the new Pac 12 Championship game or a bowl game.
Here is a look at Utah’s offense, defense, special teams and schedule.
The offense wasn’t spectacular last year but scored 33.1 points a game and got the job done. The Utes averaged 389 yards a game, including 236.1 passing yards and 152.9 rushing yards a game. The Utes return 6 starters from that unit.
Whittingham brought in new offensive coordinator Norm Chow to overhaul the offense. Chow has been the OC at archrival BYU along with USC, UCLA, and the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. Chow is getting rid of the spread offense that has been Utah’s mainstay since Urban Meyer was the coach almost a decade ago.
Junior Jordan Wynn returns as the quarterback but he is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. Wynn missed the entire spring practice session, not a good thing when he needed the time to learn a new complex offensive system. Wynn completed 62.2% of his passes last year for 2,334 yards, 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. If Wynn isn’t healthy by the start of the season, then a true freshman and a JUCO transfer will be the backups, Tyler Shreve and Jon Hayes. Freshman Shreve impressed the coaches so much he was named the #2 quarterback, and Griff Robles was moved to linebacker.
Utah must replace the dynamic duo of tailbacks Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata, along with Robles who were the three leading rushers last season. White and Asiata accounted for over 300 carries, over 1,400 yards, and 19 touchdowns last season. Both had over 30 catches out of the backfield as well. that kind of production will be difficult if not impossible to replace. Junior John White transferred from Harbor College in Los Angeles. his small 5-9 190 pound frame will likely prevent him from being the feature back, but he has tons of quickness and speed. True freshman Harvey Langi was the top recruited running back in the state of Utah. He is 6-1, 225 pounds so he can be a bruising back. Sophomore Thretton Palamo came over from the school’s rugby team. He is 6-2 and 240 pounds. The Utes hope the Small-Medium-Large combo pack will keep opponents off balance, even though none of the three have much experience. Sophomore Karl Williams and redshirt freshman Jake Murphy will battle for the fullback job, a position rarely used in the old offense.
The Utes only return one receiver who caught more than 20 passes last year, as Jereme Brooks graduated along with Wide and Asiata. Junior DeVonte Christopher had 39 catches, 660 yards, and 6 touchdowns last year. JUCO transfer Anthony Denham will be the #2 receiver. Redshirt freshman Dres Anderson, (son of former NFL receiver Flipper) and junior Reggie Dunn will also get targets. Junior Kendrick Moeai returns as the tight end. He had 11 catches, for 225 yards, and one touchdown. He will get more targets under the new system. Junior Luke Matthews had 16 catches, 289 yards, and 3 touchdowns last year. The coaches want to get him on the field but don’t know where that will be. He might play some tight end or fullback.
The offensive line returns three starters but loses two All Mountain West first teamers. The tackles are set with senior right tackle Tony Bergstrom and senior left tackle John Cullen. Junior Tevita Stevens moves from guard to center, and will anchor a line that should be pretty strong. The only questions are at the guards with junior Sam Brenner at the left guard and sophomore Percy Taumoelau at right guard.
Utah had a top 30 ranked defense last year including an elite rush defense. The Utes gave up 111.7 yards a game on the ground which was #11 in the country. Utah gave up 336.8 total yards a game but struggled to stop the pass giving up 225.2 yards a game through the air. Utah allowed only 20.3 points a game last year. The Utes return 5 starters from a year ago.
The front seven will be great for the Utes, but they must replace the entire secondary. The defense will be led by sophomore LB Brian Blechen, Junior NT Star Lotulelei, Senior LB Chaz Walker, and Junior DE Dave Kruger. The defense should be great at stopping the runs, forcing turnovers, and in the red zone, but will struggle to stop the pass again with a rebuilt secondary.
Junior Coleman Peterson and sophomore Nick March are competing for the kicker job. Marsh handled kickoffs last season, but Peterson is more consistent.
Junior Sean Sellwood returns as the punter, after a 41 yards per punt average last year. He was an All-American hsi fresman year but regressed during his sophomore year. He had 3 punts blocked last year.
Sophomore Griff McNabb and Dres Anderson will return punts. Reggie Dunn returns kicks and averaged almost 30 yards a return including a 100 yard return against Iowa St last year.
Utah starts off with a warm-up game at home against Montana St. The Utes then start a difficult 2 game road trip at USC in the Ute’s first Pac 12 conference game and at arch-rival BYU. Utah then hosts Washington and Arizona St before a trip to Pittsburgh and California. Utah alternates home and away games for the rest of the season, starting with a home game against Oregon St, at Arizona, home against UCLA, at Washington St, and home against Colorado the day after Thanksgiving to close out the season. With such a challenging schedule I don’t see more than 8 wins. The Utes will find they don’t have easy games against UNLV, New Mexico, or Wyoming to run up the win total like they did in the Mountain West. Even the worst teams in the Pac 12 conference Washington St and Colorado aren’t pushovers.
Utah was 7-5-1 against the spread last year including 3-2-1 at home and 4-3 on the road. The over/under was 7-6 including 4-2 at home and 3-4 on the road.
Game to play Utah
November 12, Utah hosts UCLA, the school that fired Chow last season. The Utes are tough at home and should have enough to beat a UCLA team that struggles to score.
Game to bet against Utah
Utah avoids playing conference powerhouses Oregon and Stanford in their first year in the Pac 12 but still must travel to USC in their conference opener. Probation or not, USC simply has too much talent for the Utes and the Trojans should win handily.
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