Utah Football Preview 2013: The Final Stretch

Ute fans, hang in there!! The season starts next week. The preview magazines have been released and examined, Media Days have come and gone and Utah’s Fall Camp has now transitioned into practices that are 100% focused on Utah State. In my two previous posts, I took a look at the upcoming season. Through 8 games I have the Utes at 5-3 needing one win to get to a bowl game with 4 to play. With this third installment to  the preview for 2013, I will look at the final four games which are against Arizona State, Oregon, Washington State and Colorado.

Game #9 vs. Arizona State: The last two years, the Sun Devils have completely man-handled the Utes. If the Utes want to rise in the conference, they need to find a way to win games like this, especially with the game being at Rice-Eccles. Utah is starting to play better at home in conference and this would be a real nice win for the Utes. With that said, we still haven’t seen them play well against ASU for an entire game so it’s difficult for me to sit here and say that things are going to all the sudden change. Utah will have chances to win, but I feel that Arizona State has better and more experienced playmakers on both sides of the ball. My guess would be that the Sun Devils beat Utah anywhere from 7-10 points.

Game #10 at Oregon: Yikes! Where do we even start with this one? This will be the first time these two schools have met as conference foes. Not many teams go into Autzen Stadium and walk out with a win. In the last 2 seasons, the Oregon Ducks are 12-2 at home, losing both games by a combined 6 points. I do expect the Oregon Ducks to take just a little tiny step back this year without Chip Kelly, but they will still be a very good team. Utah played the Ducks tough in 2009 at Autzen losing 31-24 and hopefully the game will be similar to that, but with a different result. Out of all the games on the schedule this year, this is the only one that I can’t talk myself into believing Utah can pull off the upset. Oregon is so good, with playmakers at nearly every position on both sides of the ball. If the Utes want to shock the world, they have to strike first and can’t just react to what Oregon does. It will take an offense that is hitting on all cylinders and a defense that is ferocious and playing out of their minds. The Utes may be able to do that for a quarter or maybe even a half, but I see the explosive Oregon offense wearing down the Ute defense and winning by 17+.

Game #11 at Washington State: The Utes won a snowy and dramatic contest at Martin Stadium near the end of the 2011 season. It was a game that was too close for comfort especially against the lowly Washington State Cougars. For whatever reason I have feared this game ever since the 2013 schedule was released. Mike Leach has shown to be a great coach at times and everyone is waiting for WSU to finally be good. They could take a step forward this year and I hope that they don’t get one of their wins against the Utes. Honestly, I see this game playing out very similar to last year’s contest against the Buffaloes. The Utes don’t play all that well but find a way to get the win.

Game #12 vs. Colorado: I don’t know what it is with these guys, but they always play well against the Utes. Even though Utah was able to beat them last year, the home loss in 2011 still stings. Utah had a chance to play in the first ever Pac-12 Conference Championship game and blew it with a lackluster effort against the Buffaloes. Mike MacIntyre did a great job turning around a San Jose State program that had been awful for years.  He will attempt to do the same thing for Colorado. I believe that eventually he will get it turned around, but it will take a couple of years. Utah is the better team and I feel like we’re due for a nice, comfortable win against these guys. With this last home win, the Utes will finish the season 7-5 and will be on their way back to a bowl game.

Here are some of the things we will say about this Utes team when the season is over: they continued to play better at home and are making Rice-Eccles a tough place to play for conference foes again, the offense wasn’t spectacular, but definitely improved and finally, Travis Wilson was the first quarterback in 5 seasons to start and finish the whole year for the Utes. Looking at the schedule, 7 wins seems very reachable for this Utes team, they are loaded with home games at the beginning of the season and have to find a way to win as many of those games as possible. I am cautiously optimistic about this year and feel like the Utah football team we’ve been accustomed to seeing over the last decade will begin to return in 2013.