Archive for the ‘PAC-12’ Category

Dakarai Tucker (Utes #14) drills 3-pointer with 40 seconds left to give Utes 63-60 lead.

Dakarai Tucker (Utes #14) drills 3-pointer with 40 seconds left to give Utes 63-60 lead.

The Washington Huskies pushed Utah to the edge, overcoming a 12 point first half deficit, but the Utes hold out late and beat UW 67-61 in the first game of the opening round of the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament.

This win locks up Utah’s second round matchup against No. 1 seed Arizona tomorrow.

The turning point and play-of-the-game both came on a clutch 3-point basket made by Dakarai Tucker with 40 seconds left to give the Utes a 63-60 lead over UW.  After that, Utah hit four free throws to Washington’s one.

Utah’s player of the game was undoubtedly Delon Wright who recorded 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and 2 blocks.

The Utes led early, getting out to a 30-18 lead with 4:37 remaining in the first half.

That lead was chipped away at by the Huskies behind 16 points off the bench from Darin Johnson, who led all scorers, until Washington eventually took a 41-40 lead with 11:34 remaining on a Johnson layup.

It was back and forth from that point until eventually the game was tied 60-60 with just over a minute remaining.

The 2012 college football season kicks off Thursday August 30th.

As with each new year, the associated press has determined that these are the top 25 teams in college football for 2012:

AP Top 25
RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 USC (25) 0-0 1445
2 Alabama (17) 0-0 1411
3 LSU (16) 0-0 1402
4 Oklahoma (1) 0-0 1286
5 Oregon 0-0 1274
6 Georgia 0-0 1107
7 Florida State 0-0 1093
8 Michigan (1) 0-0 1000
9 South Carolina 0-0 994
10 Arkansas 0-0 963
11 West Virginia 0-0 856
12 Wisconsin 0-0 838
13 Michigan State 0-0 742
14 Clemson 0-0 615
15 Texas 0-0 569
16 Virginia Tech 0-0 548
17 Nebraska 0-0 485
18 Ohio State 0-0 474
19 Oklahoma State 0-0 430
20 TCU 0-0 397
21 Stanford 0-0 383
22 Kansas State 0-0 300
23 Florida 0-0 214
24 Boise State 0-0 212
25 Louisville 0-0 105

 

Predictions

Kentucky @ (25) Louisville – Sunday Sept. 2, 2012:

It’s always hard to pick these games. A rivalry game always has potential for upset and in this case, Kentucky seems to be fully capable of blindsiding #25 on the road if they play a clean game. Because of the home crowd, I give the slight edge to Louisville.

Louisville wins 24-23

Bowling Green @ (23) Florida – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

Classic SEC warm-up game for the Gators. Some analysts have Florida as a SEC dark horse this year.

Florida wins 45-13

Missouri State @ (22) Kansas State – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

Kansas State looks to continue moving forward after a breakout 10-3 season in 2011. Missouri State will need a miracle.

Kansas State wins 35-14

San Jose State @ (21) Stanford – Friday Aug. 31, 2012:

Stanford faces no small task in replacing Andrew Luck which cannot be anything but a step backwards. Coach Shaw won’t have too much to be concerned about week one however.

Stanford wins 31-17

Savannah State @ (19) Oklahoma State – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

OK State’s offense took two huge hits in losing both Veteran QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon to the NFL. The defense may need to step up to buffer the blow as they gave up 26 points per game in 2011. Savannah State will not likely put more than 20 on the board, though.

Oklahoma State wins 28-10

Miami (OH) @ (18) Ohio State – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

Welcome back Urban Meyer! Look for this Ohio State team to be markedly better than the Buckeyes from 2011. Meyer has a knack for making instant improvement everywhere he goes.

Ohio State wins 38-20

Southern Miss. @ (17) Nebraska – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

Nebraska looks to be fast and ready to run in 2012. Southern Miss. is about a 20 point underdog in this game but I see it being a little closer.

Nebraska wins 31-21

Georgia Tech. @ (16) Virginia Tech. – Monday Sept. 3, 2012:

Why they have to play Monday is unknown to me but what I do know, is that VT has a tendency to start slow and GT is no slouch. Look for the Yellow Jackets’ triple option offense to confuse an untested 2012 defense.

Georgia Tech wins 28-24

Wyoming @ (15) Texas – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

After a disappointing 2011 season for the Longhorns, they look to turn things around and again, win the Big 12. To do that, they must start by crushing the outmatched ‘Pokes of Wyoming.

Texas wins 40-7

(14) Clemson @ Auburn – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

Expectations are high for Clemson this year. Doesn’t that sound familiar? We’ll see how the past few stellar recruiting years will pan out for Clemson. Auburn struggled to beat Utah State at home in last year’s opener.

Clemson wins 21-17

(24) Boise State @ (13) Michigan State – Friday Aug. 31, 2012:

Ah, the annual event of Boise State facing a BCS team in a battle of the ranked in week one. Although Boise has a great track record in the past, they lost a lot on their defense and will struggle to keep Spartan points off the board.

Michigan State wins 31-21

Northern Iowa @ (12) Wisconsin – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

Wisconsin has high hopes for another 10+ win season. All signs point to Michigan and Wisconsin facing each other in the B1G Championship. First things first, tune up game against NIU.

Wisconsin wins 49-10

Marshall @ (11) West Virginia – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

West Virginia makes the move from the Big East to the Big XII this season. Some analysts expect the Mountaineers to challenge Oklahoma for the conference title.

West Virginia wins 34-17

Jacksonville State @ (10) Arkansas – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

The Arkansas Razorbacks were supposed to be flying high this season until Head Coach Bobby Petrino was caught in a scandal and fired in the off-season. The talent level alone keeps Arkansas afloat at #10 but will have a tough road ahead. After the first week at least.

Arkansas wins 56-14

(9) South Carolina @ Vanderbilt – Thursday Aug. 30, 2012:

It’s a rare occurrence to have a week one conference game. Especially dangerous when a top ten team goes on the road to face a conference foe. Vanderbilt isn’t the most threatening team in the SEC by any means, but they should not be overlooked.

South Carolina wins 31-24

Murray State @ (7) Florida State – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

Murray State was a huge story in the college basketball world in 2011-’12. Too bad that won’t help them from getting destroyed by the Seminoles on their way to trying to win the ACC.

Florida State wins 45-10

Buffalo @ (6) Georgia – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

The Georgia Bulldogs crack the preseason top 10 for the first time since starting at #1 in 2008. It’s been a while since Georgia made big waves in the SEC. Buffalo should provide good practice.

Georgia wins 31-7

Arkansas State @ (5) Oregon – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

Oregon looks to get off to a fast start to the 2012 season with a warm-up game against Arkansas State. The Ducks will be flying in this game with new QB Marcus Mariota and potential Heisman candidate RB DeAnthony Thomas putting up points.

Oregon wins 49-13

(4) Oklahoma @ UTEP – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

The Sooners have national championship aspirations this season and with good reason. NFL prospect Landry Jones returns for his Senior season and will get UTEP to cut up before the tough games begin.

Oklahoma wins 45-9

North Texas @ (3) LSU – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

LSU is on the BCS National Championship rebound after losing 21-0 to Alabama last season. With Tyrann Mathieu unavailable this season, LSU really has to worry about North Texas upsetting…I’m kidding. N. Texas is toast.

LSU wins 48-3

(8) Michigan @ (2) Alabama – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

This is the marquee game of the week without question. Michigan is the top ranked B1G team and Alabama is the top SEC team. Regardless of the outcome, whichever team loses will have work to do to get back into the BCS conversation. Michigan is returning Denard Robinson with a steadily improving defense under Brady Hoke.

Alabama wins 28-21

Hawaii @ (1) USC – Saturday Sept. 1, 2012:

With all the talent USC has returning in 2012, the #1 spot is deserved. With a tough schedule this season, it’s hard to think USC will make it through unscathed. Hawaii will not be the team to taste victory against the Trojans this year.

USC wins 42-7

***Locally***

Southern Utah @ Utah State – Thursday Aug. 20, 2012:

After a 6-6 season in 2011, the USU Aggies are hungry for a new season and hopefully even more improvement. There’s no reason to think that they can’t add to last year’s success and they will start that road by hosting in-state D-2 Southern Utah.

Utah State wins 35-14

Washington State @ BYU – Thursday Aug. 30, 2012:

New Washington State Head Coach Mike Leach begins his tenure with the Cougars by heading down to Provo and taking on his alma mater BYU. BYU is expected to be good on defense while Leach is an offensive mastermind with tools at his disposal.

Washington State wins 27-24

Northern Colorado @ Utah

Utah heads into its second year in the Pac 12 with high expectations and improvements all around the offensive side of the ball. Northern Colorado will be a great opportunity to solidify some positions for the Utes and prepare for tougher competition later on.

Utah wins 42-3

 

Night game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The Utes have finished their first full year in the PAC-12 with a 4-5 in-conference record and an overtime victory over Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.

 

Moving forward into their second year, Utah looks to avoid the Sophomore slump and improve upon the small successes they were able to achieve in the “Conference of Champions” in 2011.

 

Utah had the #1 rush defense in the conference and one of the best overall defenses as well.

 

Utah has always been adept in turning pure athletes into defensive stars, no matter what position they played. Because of this ability, the Utes defense has rarely been a cause for concern heading into spring practice.

 

Defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake has decided to stay on with the Utes in 2012 and is very excited about the outlook next season.

 

The offensive side of the ball, however, is an area where question marks can be found.

 

Unlike the 2011 season, Utah has an established running back in John White IV and hopeful up-and-comers in Harvey Langi (freshman last season) and newly recruited Kelvin York (who many expect will take the #2 spot behind White).

 

DeVonte Christopher scores a touchdown against BYU

DeVonte Christopher (10) catches a touchdown pass from Jordan Wynn against BYU in 2010.

Utah has an array of receivers that are expected to play well this upcoming season, including Luke Matthews, DeVonte Christopher, Reggie Dunn (all of whom will be Seniors) and Dres Anderson (entering his Sophomore year).

 

Some of the bigger questions facing the Utes offense in 2012 will be who plays at quarterback, how the offensive line will play, and how the play calling from new hire Brian Johnson will be.

 

The QB position at Utah has been a common concern year in and out, it seems. This year is no different.

 

Ute fans for the most part have confidence that Jordan Wynn can succeed, but are less than comfortable answering the question of “will he succeed?”

 

Wynn has faced many issues throughout his career at Utah from being thrown to the wolves to start the second half of the Utes “blackout” game against Wyoming Oct. 31, 2009, to all the issues he’s had with injuries during his sophomore and junior seasons.

 

Wynn is currently said to be in great health, according to an interview from Head Coach Kyle Whittingham on signing day Feb. 2, 2012, and has full throwing motion.

 

The offensive line played very well last season, opening holes time and time again for RB John White IV, helping him to become the 2nd leading rusher in the PAC-12 behind 2010 Heisman finalist LaMichael James and ahead of the University of Washington’s Chris Polk, who is projected to be drafted as high as the first or second round of the NFL draft (spectacular for 3rd best RB in a conference).

 

Once you get past the QB concerns and the OL concerns, you’re left with what I think is the number one unanswered question for the Utes and that is this: How will Brian Johnson fare in his first season as an offensive coordinator?

 

The jury, I believe, will be out on this issue until the midway point of the season so it’s one that irks the most.

 

All that can be done is to wait, watch and see.

 

Brian Johnson has so many things going for him that there is every opportunity for him to succeed and only a few areas where concern is warranted.

 

The most valuable thing Johnson has going for him is Coach Whittingham’s trust. He has earned it.

 

In 2008, Johnson was placed in situations where he alone made choices that turned the tables in Utah’s favor, where a mistake to the smallest degree could have proven disastrous and monumentally changed the pathway of that magical season.

 

Johnson was a field general and knows what it takes to win.

 

Johnson, just in this Utah system alone, has been under the mentoring and tutelage of Coaches Urban Meyer (.819 win percentage and 2 National Championships), Norm Chow (coached 4 Heisman Trophy winners) and Kyle Whittingham (7-1 bowl game record).

 

The glaring concern with Johnson is his age – 25 (as of a Feb. 16).

 

For many, Johnson being so young and “inexperienced” are cause for worry but being 25 myself, I say “Great!”

 

Johnson has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to life milestones. He entered the University of Utah as a 17 year old kid and he played as a freshman behind Alex Smith. He became the quarterbacks coach at the age of 23.

 

Johnson’s age actually makes him more dangerous as a recruiter because he can connect with the players on a level that 40, 50 and especially 60-year-old+ coaches just cannot.

 

Johnson played in front of 75,000+ screaming fans in the loudest NFL arena, the Superdome, just a shade over 3 years ago. It’s highly doubtful that pressure wasn’t far worse than coaching a few plays from the booth.

 

The Utes have shown that they can scrape an 8-5 record with a PAC-12 schedule while missing a starting quarterback, and sketchy special teams play.

 

It’s difficult to call the Utes’ special team a question because the answer is clear. It needs a makeover badly.

 

At 1:30 PM on Friday, November 25, 2011 the University of Utah and Colorado University face off in the last regular season game as “natural geographic rivals.”

I think I speak for the vast majority of the Ute fan base when I say Colorado is not our rival any more than the University of Arizona or UCLA are our rivals.

I like to think that a rivalry inspires greater play on both sides of the ball. For Utah, there have been several different rivalries over the years. Most often, three situations surround a true rivalry.

#1 – Proximity

This situation seems to breed the deepest of rivalries. Of course, for Utah, this rival is BYU. Personally, I see no reason this will change. Colorado will not replace BYU as the “rival next door” unless they become much more competitive in both the division and head to head. I don’t see this happening soon.

#2 – Consistently Close Competition

The most infamous of Utah rivalries in this category is undoubtedly the Air Force Falcons. Over the last 9 meetings between the 2, the average margin of victory was about 6.1 points.

Who knows, maybe Colorado will step into the Air Force void as the game each year that Utah fans dread as an inevitable battle and struggle, but I would take Air Force over Colorado head to head 4 out of 5 games the way each team is currently playing.

#3 – Big Time Games

The last decade or so, Utah has battled BYU for not only bragging rights in the Holy War result, but also for rank in the conference standings. Because the Holy War was played as the last game of the regular season, there was inherently added importance. In ’04 and ’08, specifically, Utah/BYU was highly important for Utah to finish undefeated, and even for BYU in a spoiler role. In ’09, BYU beating Utah broke a conference record tie of 6-1.

With Utah and TCU battling the last 3 years for national spotlight and BCS invites out of the Mountain West Conference, it felt sometimes TCU was more a conference rival than the Cougars.

With better recruiting and gained familiarity in the Pac-12 South, I find it hard to believe that the Utah/Colorado game will hold a lot more weight than Utah clinching the South division with a victory (which may be the case in this inaugural year).

I have hopes that within the next 5 years, Utah builds a rivalry or rivalries with division or conference foes the caliber of USC’s and Arizona State’s.

*     *      *

In closing, I do see three situations where a rivalry could ignite between the Buffs and Utes this weekend, and that is if CU beats Utah on a last second play, if CU blows Utah out, or if a brawl breaks out after a controversial play.

At least the genius’ marketing this forced rivalry thought up an amazingly cool name for the game.

“Rumble in the Rockies”…

Yikes.

Utes' DeVonte Christopher makes reception in game vs Montana State

Week one has come and gone for the Utah Utes football team. Overall, Utah came out on top with a 27-10 victory over Montana State with no major injuries to report.

Here are the grades for Week 1:

This game was awkward, let’s put it that way. At no point in this match-up did Utah look in any danger of upset and, in fact, grabbed the momentum early and often. However, the offense did look stagnant at times, especially in the second half, and the passing game seemed inconsistent.

Passing – C+

Utah’s passing game was not terrible, contrary to what many have come away from this game thinking. Jordan Wynn was 15 of 23 (65%) with 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The down side comes in the distance category, in which Utah gained only 101 yards.

It was very clear that Utah intended to establish the running game, or at least test what options they had available, and therefore did not appear concerned with passing for long yardage plays down the field. In fact, it seemed only 2 or 3 passes were even attempted over 30 yards downfield.

Running – A-

One of the biggest questions the Utes faced coming out of fall camp was the running situation. Most fans knew that John White IV was the leading candidate to take the majority of the carries, but all wanted to see him in action.

White ran for 150 yards and 1 TD (caught another). Utah’s struggles with the run game in the past has always been the tendency our backs had to try to “push the line” and grind yards out. White’s running style is very Barry Sanders-like in the way he cuts and jukes to hit holes in the O-line and then has the breakaway speed to turn a little into a lot. Very impressed with John White IV.

Tauni Vakapuna took the second string snaps and was inconsistent. Vakapuna is a big strong running back, akin to many of the Ute backs the last few years.

Run Defense – A

Utah’s run defense was just as good as advertised. The Bobcats running backs only produced 75 total rushing yards (longest run was just 13 yards).

Quarterback DeNarius McGhee is perhaps the most mobile quarterback the Utes will face this year but did not struggle with giving up yards to him when plays broke down. The Utes also recorded 2 sacks on McGhee.

Pass Defense – B+

Another huge question mark for Utah was their replacing of all 4 starters at defensive back. With breakout true freshman Brian Blechen moving to stud linebacker this season, eyes were fixed on the pass defense.

McGhee completed only 55% of his passes for 189 yards 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions (both to Blechen). The longest pass play was complete for 47 yards by Elvis Akpla halfway through the 4th quarter on a last effort drive which ended in Blechen’s second interception.

Special Teams – A-

The place kicking game may have been Utah’s #1 concern coming out of fall camp this year. Coach Whittingham has talked about the inconsistency of kickers Nick Marsh and Coleman Petersen.

Petersen was named starter, as he went 2-2 FG and 3-3 extra points. Petersen even drilled a 44 yard attempt, much to the relief of all fans, coaching staff and undoubtedly Petersen himself.

The punt coverage was adequate and the punt return squad blocked a punt deep in Montana State territory and deflected another.

Overall: B

The Utes did just enough to address every offseason concern, as well as limit the play calling to very simple “vanilla” plays that won’t tip USC off during film study, on offense and defense.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, every BYU football fan’s favorite time of the year has finally arrived – preseason!

This is the time of year when the Cougar faithful reminisce of 1984 and let-downs of yesteryear long forgotten. This is the moment in the college football season when there are no losses in the right hand column. This is the year that BYU goes undefeated and stake claim to an illustrious BCS bowl game.

Talk filled with speculation and hear-say, “if this”s and “if that”s and, of course, the ever so popular “if only”s.

According to the current roster, this year’s Heisman winner will be Jake Heaps and according to the number of games on this year’s schedule, the regular season record will be 12-0 (13-0 if you include the national championship game).

Just based, plainly, on general BYU fan consensus of preseason expectations, the Cougars are the nations most successful team of all time.

Rrrrrrrrrrrrrt!!! Stop the car. Reality check time.

First and foremost, Ute fans are more than aware of the hype around Jake Heaps. In fact, a fair number of Ute Nation refer to Jacob as Jake Hypes (or my personal favorite, Joke Hypes. Look, give me the list of teams Hypes has beaten as the starting (and only) quarterback. In all reality, you know… that world of fact and matter, Jordan Wynn had a much, MUCH more impressive freshman season (albeit much shorter).

Both Wynn and Heaps lost in the Holy War their freshman year, so that’s a wash (although Wynn did lose to senior Max Hall and Heaps to Wynn himself). Both had in-conference wins that were inconsequential and also a wash. The comparison lies truly in their losses to TCU and bowl victories.

Wynn and Heaps each faced TCU on the road in a year when the Horned Frogs went undefeated on their way to a BCS bowl game. Wynn, in his second ever start and third game, got rattled early by the Frogs, but got dusted off and led the Utes offense to 28 points and finished the game as the game’s leading passer over Andy Dalton. Heaps, in his fourth start and seventh game, led the Cougars to one field goal and that’s it.

The Holy War and TCU losses were the only on Wynn’s record that year, Heaps piled two more in Nevada and mighty Utah State.

Wynn beat an 8-4 Cal team out of the Pac-10 while Heaps whooped on a 6-6 UTEP team out of Conference-USA (in which, they had a 3-5 losing record).

Explain it away any way you like, it really makes no difference. Even if Heaps is the better quarterback, a reception is a two-way street. You know what made Max Hall so amazing? Collie and Pitta. Heaps is a Ferrari engine in a car with 4 flat tires. So until Heaps actually does something, quit yapping.

Speaking of talking after completion takes me to my second point. How ’bout we cut with all the BYU BCS predictions because, frankly, it’s insulting.

Every year since 2004, it seems BYU fans have had dreams of BCS bowl victory and the national glory they once enjoyed (key word once). Y fans are literally starving for national success and attention. You think I’m exaggerating? Simply take a look at how the city of Provo reacted after beating Oklahoma by one point in the first game of 2009. You don’t need to watch the entire video as my point is made almost immediately, but I suggest you turn down the volume (there’s a lot of squealing).

I would venture to say that the literal starvation for national spotlight and glory is so severe that any speck of success will throw the entire city into a state of delirium. As you’ll recognize, this was the very first game of the season. How did these teams end up? Oklahoma beat Stanford in the Sun Bowl and BYU beat Oregon State in its fifth straight Las Vegas Bowl.

Speaking of bowls, which bowl game sprung off its hinges to pick up an affiliation with the Cougars this past year? The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl (A.K.A. the 3rd most prestigious Mountain West Conference bowl game). If only the Cougars had snagged something akin to the Las Vegas Bowl or Poinsettia Bowl (A.K.A. the fourth and fifth most prestigious Pac-12 bowl games).

Jake Heaps will no doubt explode onto the scene at some time or another (I’m guessing once the Y gets into the WAC portion of the schedule). Once that happens, please, tell me how great Heaps is. I would love to chat about his pocket presence, throwing motion, whatever your little blue heart desires. Until then, zip it.

Once BYU goes undefeated, gets a BCS bowl invite and victory, please, tell me how amazing the team was that season. Until then, zip it.

Heck, Jimmer is still fresh enough, I guess. Keep talking about Jimmer leading the Y to the “Sweet 16.”

Lastly and most importantly, PLEASE stop talking about going independent as if you weren’t backed into it and went independent in spite of BCS Conference affiliation invites. Notre Dame went stag to the prom, despite numerous suitors seeking to escort them because it benefits them more to dance with whomever they choose. BYU went stag to the prom because nobody asked them but their dad is rich and enjoys encouraging their child’s nostalgia of their popularity in 3rd grade.

Utah is the kid BYU picked on that year in 3rd grade and grew into one of the hottest kids in school and got asked to the prom by one of the popular crowd. That’s reality.

Have a great fall camp. We’ll see ya Sept. 17th.

Utah's Jordan Wynn, BYU's Jake Heaps and Utah State's Adam Kennedy

This is the time of year where I start to get antsy and excited for fall camp to start for college football. This year is especially important for the state of Utah as conference realignments have altered the field of play, so to speak.

The University of Utah heads into the Pac-12 as an immediate challenger in the south division. BYU looks forward to a conference-less freedom not shared but by a few others in the nation at 1A level. Utah State will now be  without Boise State, Nevada, Fresno State, or Hawaii as competitors in the WAC.

Here are the best and worst case scenarios for each team in the state of Utah this year:

Utah

The Utes lead the Utah “Pac” as far as upward advancement this past offseason. As they made their membership into the Pac-12 official July 1, 2011, they pull the most eyes and attention from the national media.

In my experience with unbiased, out-of-state, college football fans and analysts, about half the nation expects Utah to contend immediately and half expect them to flop and crumble under the pressure. As far as local input, the general consensus with Ute fans can be summed up with a comment made by fan Tyler Beck saying, “Utah Utes are good.”

Yes they are. But what lies ahead?

Worst Case Scenario – 6-6 record with no bowl appearance.

I strongly believe that September 10th is the most important game on the Utes’ schedule and it isn’t close. They head to LA to face the Pac-10 legend USC Trojans on their home turf as the first Pac-12 game ever played. Talk about your pressure situation. But, as Utah has proven in the past, pressure is what they live for. If Utah loses this game against USC (as in blowout loss), it could start a slide to Utah’s season where they could end up losing to BYU at Provo, Arizona State at home, Pittsburgh at Pitt, Arizona in Tucson, and either Oregon State at home or at Cal. Even in a down and out season, I cannot picture the Utes with a losing record, especially with the favorable schedule they drew this year.

Best Case Scenario – 13-1 record with loss in the Conference Championship game or National Championship.

Keep in mind, this is not my realistic expectation but rather the best case scenario and, yes, it is very possible. Let me explain.

I go back to that USC game. If Utah can go into the Colosseum and beat USC, the confidence level will be through the roof. That may be just what Utah will need heading into Provo to face bitter (and I say bitter very literally as almost 100% of the Cougar fans and players believe they deserved the “W” in last year’s rivalry game) rival, BYU. Stringing wins together against hopeful future rival and hopefully past rival two weeks in a row, and Utah may just have enough to carry them the season’s length.

We already know the schedule works out great for Utah as Stanford and Oregon are absent this year (A situation that will happen only every 4 years or so). The only really tough games remaining are; @ Pitt (Utes 2-0 against the Panthers), vs Arizona State (winnable game at home), vs Oregon State (Utes can repeat history from ’08), and at Arizona (good history against the Wild Cats). Utah benefits from a downhill ending to their season with UCLA, Washington State, and CU making up the last 3 season games. If Utah makes it undefeated past Nov. 5th, they should finish that way.

But…then comes the championship rounds. I think Oregon has the tools to go all the way this year and should Utah win the south, I doubt they would beat the north division champ and end up winning the Rose Bowl against the Big 10 Champ. If, and that’s a huge if, they win the Pac-12, the SEC champion they likely would face, will be ready to pound them in the BCS National Championship Game.

BYU:

Expectations are sky-high for the Cougars this year, at least in Provo they are.

With the Cougars entering their first season of independence in football, they are starting to realize something – the only championship they can claim is the national championship. At BYU media days, players, directors, coaches and fans all talked avidly about how their new standard is winning the national title. We’ll see how it works out.

Worst Case Scenario – 8-5 record with win in the Armed Forces Bowl.

BYU steps up to the plate with plenty to be concerned about. A losing record is not one of those as they will face Utah State, San Jose State, Idaho State, Idaho, New Mexico State, and Hawaii. All of which, should be written-in W’s. (Yes, BYU got destroyed by Utah State last season, but that was at Logan, during BYU’s defensive struggles, and BYU will no doubt be looking for revenge in the worst way for that game.

Starting their season with Ole Miss, Texas, Utah and UCF, I can see a very possible rough start for the Cougars, adjusting to a new offensive coordinator. Then, facing TCU and Oregon State on the road later on poses a concern as well.

Whether or not BYU tanks this season, won’t really matter with their bowl affiliation. The Armed Forces Bowl isn’t exactly given first pick of the litter. BYU will likely face another UTEP caliber team and another likely blowing out of that team.

Best Case Scenario – 12-1 record with a loss to Ole Miss, Texas, Utah, TCU, or BCS Bowl opponent.

This is an interesting call. I have trouble thinking BYU will make it out of their first 5 games unscathed. There is too much talent on the other side of the ball with Ole Miss and Texas for me to say the Y will get both on the road. If they do, the Holy War is always a 50/50 and they run the risk losing that game just as Utah does. TCU has BYU’s number the last 4 years, but they also lost a lot more than most realize. They were a young prodigy-filled team that grew up and played together the last 3 years. Many of them have left and I think BYU should be able to win this game.

Should BYU do the unthinkable and win out to the end of the season, the pure weakness of the second half of that schedule will betray the Y as it has Utah, TCU, and Boise State. BYU is not guaranteed a spot in a BCS game, even, unless they finish in the top 6. An undefeated record would do that for sure. BYU is not a team known for its composure in big-time games, and likely would be beaten in a BCS appearance.

Utah State:

The Aggies are in their 3rd year now with Coach Gary Anderson. His first two seasons, he was working with players recruited by his predecessor Brent Guy.

The Aggies hit rock bottom a few years ago in 2006, when they won just 1 game all season going 1-11. Since then, they’ve gone 2-10, 3-9, 4-8, and 4-8. I expect a better showing with the schedule the Aggies will have to work with.

Worst Case Scenario – 2-10 with wins against San Jose State and New Mexico State.

With one year left to some conference foes’ affiliation with the WAC, Utah State won’t be in a position of dominance by any means, but they will have familiarity. I don’t think Anderson will regress in his work to the point of losing to SJSU and NMSU. Utah State is noticeably more athletic, quicker, and more hungry for success than in years past but that opener against Auburn could really hurt the Aggies, and I mean that literally. Last year, Utah State came close to beating Oklahoma (or I guess keeping with them long enough to sneak past), but Oklahoma hadn’t found their niche yet. BYU is also going to be in the hunt for revenge against the Aggies for how badly they were embarrassed last season in Logan.

Best Case Scenario – 10-3 with a victory in the Humanitarian Bowl against MAC Champion.

Believe me, I know this is not a sight used to being seen. Utah State having a little respect pre-season. Fact is, If they can gain any sort of confidence against Auburn, even in the loss, they have a cupcake schedule to feast on after that. I see in no way BYU losing to the Aggies at Provo. Also, I predict Fresno State, Wyoming or Nevada will make their 3rd loss in such a season. With the confidence and excitement of playing in the first bowl game Utah State has played in since 1997, where they lost to Cincinnati in the Humanitarian Bowl.

I believe that every season for these 3 teams will fall somewhere in the middle of these predictions, but it’s nice as a fan to think of best case scenario for your team, and worst case for your rival. Right?

Brandon Burton dives to block Mitch Payne's kick.

I’m a little more than excited about the release of the Utes‘ Spring schedule for football practices and scrimmages. Now I just have to plan my work schedule accordingly…

Utes Spring Football Schedule <— Click Here

Players to watch:

WR Reggie Dunn #14 – Dunn was used primarily as a decoy on play-action plays and kick returns for his blazing speed. The kid can stop on a dime and then burn defenders with crazy acceleration. A great replacement for last year’s departed senior “Shaky” Smithson.

Play video at 1:15.

WR Kenneth Scott #2 – Scott was a big 4-star recruit for the Utes last season but suffered an ankle injury during fall camp. If this kid stays healthy, his height (6’3″) and hands make him a great weapon for Wynn. Play-action, corner end zone go up and get it receiver? Make it happen Norm.

DL Joe Kruger #99 – Name sound familiar? Joe is the third of his brothers to play on the DL for Utah. Paul now plays in the NFL for the Baltimore Ravens. Dave, will be a junior this season and a likely starter. Joe is said to be the most athletic of the 3. At 6’7″, this kid’s a monster at 270 and still filling in.

DB Conroy Black #9 – This kid can flat-out fly. Last year’s team fastest 4.30 40-yard dash time and 2nd highest vertical on the team (39 Inches). With those stats, you’d think he would be the #1 overall receiver, so there must be a hands issue. He got a lot of experience last year for the Utes as backup to both Lamar Chapman and Brandon Burton and at nickel back, so he should be top dog at CB going into Spring ball a senior.