Utah Football is just under 60 days away and the anticipation is building to watch the Utes attempt to avenge last season’s disappointing 5-7 year. The Utes aren’t expected to do much this season and, judging by how last year went, there shouldn’t be high expectations for the 2013 season.
By no means am I trying to positively spin how last year went. The team was amazingly inconsistent and often committed huge penalties that killed drives and momentum. But, looking at the results from last year, there are only a few games that the Utes never had a chance at winning. Those games being the 37-7 beat down by Arizona State, the 34-15 loss to Washington and I’ll throw in the 38-28 loss to USC even though Utah played well for a lot of that game. Other than that the Utes put themselves in a decent position to win 3 maybe 4 more games. What happens if Jordan Wynn doesn’t go down against Utah State or Coleman Petersen is able to make the field goal at the end of regulation? Or what if the Utes were able to mimic some form of offense and score more than 14 at UCLA? Things were going well for the Utes when they took on the 8th ranked Beavers until Devonte Christopher coughed up the ball which ended an impressive drive the Utes had put together. Again, the inept Utah offense couldn’t recover and they lost 21-7. Even in the Arizona game, the Utes played well and it was one of the better games from freshman QB Travis Wilson. Some costly turnovers and questionable play calls really put Utah in the hole. As we all know, the Wildcats would go on to win 34-24 eliminating Utah from a bowl game for the first time in a decade.
A lot went wrong for Utah last year and so much of it was self-inflicted. If the Utes can stay healthy at QB and are able to improve their offense, which shouldn’t be hard, things could be a lot better in 2013. Maybe my red Ute goggles are on too tight but I have the Utes winning two more games and returning to a bowl game. I will be breaking down the 2013 schedule starting with the first 4 games:
Week 1 vs. Utah State: This is an early test for the Utes to see how far they’ve come. Last year’s heartbreaking loss in OT seemed to set the tone for the rest of the year and that game is still on the minds of the Utah players. We can bet that they’ll be looking forward to giving the Aggies some payback on August 29th. I would be more worried about this game if Gary Andersen had stayed in Logan, but with him gone and rookie head coach Matt Wells taking over, you have to think that the Utes get the win over Utah State to start the season.
Week 2 vs. Weber State: The ideal situation for a game like this is for the Utes to fix any problems they had against Utah State and get a comfortable against the Weber State Wildcats. This is about as close of a guaranteed win as the Utes will have in 2013. They have to jump on them early and eliminate any hope the Wildcats may have at pulling the upset. I see the Utes winning this game comfortably.
Week 3 vs. Oregon State: To me this is the biggest game in the first 4 weeks of 2013. This is the first time the Utes have opened Pac-12 play at home and they are facing an Oregon State team that Utah has shown they can beat. The Utes have started 0-4 in conference play the last two years and need an early conference win before the “0-4” talk starts again. It’s tough to have a clear prediction about this game without knowing how good the Beavers are going to be. Will they be the 3-9 team the Utes trounced in 2011 or the 9-4 2012 team that was ranked in the top-10? Either way I wouldn’t label this as an unwinnable game for the Utes. Rice-Eccles will be rocking and hopefully that will be the edge that will put Utah over the top.
Week 4 at BYU: The 2013 edition of the Holy War will be the last one for two years and could possibly be the most heated Holy War we’ve seen in a while. Lavell Edwards Stadium is going to be a very hostile environment and will certainly test the Utes. Despite the record of either team heading into this game, I expect this to be a very competitive contest that will be decided by a play here or a turnover there. Do I think the Utes can win their 4th straight Holy War game? Yes! Do I think Cody Hoffman and Kyle Van Noy can let out 3 years of frustration and finally get a win over the Utes? Yes! It’s tough to say how this will go, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibilities for the Utes to win this game.
So much of the season rides on whether the Utes can win at least one game against Oregon State or BYU. I think they can lose a game and still be fine, winning both is going to be extremely tough, but losing both is simply not an option if the Utes want to go bowling. My prediction is that the Utes will lose to either Oregon State or to BYU and start the season 3-1. This would put Utah in a good position to get those coveted 6 wins to qualify for a bowl game. Honestly if I had my pick I would take a loss to BYU and start out 1-0 in conference play and re-establish Rice-Eccles as a tough place to play for conference foes.