The Pac-12 has been a good fit for the Utah Utes, unfortunately they haven’t lifted a conference championship trophy yet. In fact, the Utes have never had the chance. Since the league expanded in 2011, they are the only team that hasn’t won a South Division title despite winning at least nine games in each of the past three seasons. That likely won’t change in 2017 with USC favored to win the division, but the Utes aren’t an easy out and under Kyle Whittingham they have become known as overachievers.
2016 Record: 9-4 SU, 7-6 ATS, 6-7 O/U
2017 Regular Season Win Total: 6.5
National Championship Odds: +20000
Odds To Win Pac-12: +4000
Winning nine games last season was an accomplishment considering what the Utes went through on the injury front. Their top back Joe Williams retired early in the year only to unretire a month later. His absence for a stretch of the season messed up the ground game. It was torn up even more when a combination of other backs missed a combined 15 games. Utah’s top three receivers also missed a handful of games and the line was a revolving door.
It added up to a decline in production from previous seasons and quarterback Troy Williams took most of the blame, though he was about the only player on that side of the ball who stayed on the field for an entire season. His numbers suffered from the lack of consistency with his offensive teammates. Williams threw for 2,757 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he completed just 53.1 percent of his throws and was picked off eight times.
The inconsistent roster led to inconsistent results. The Utes beat their Holy War rival BYU and also knocked off USC as part of a 4-0 start. There was a puzzling loss to Cal that prevented Utah from an 8-0 record. Once the schedule got a little tougher towards the end of the season, the Utes crumbled. They lost to division champs Colorado and Washington and were upset at home by Oregon to end the regular season mired in a 1-3 slump.
In an effort to upgrade the offense, Whittingham decided to go another direction with the hire of Troy Taylor as the new coordinator. Taylor masterminded some impressive seasons at FCS Eastern Washington over the years and the Utes want him to work miracles with Williams. With a more stable group of playmakers and a year of experience at the major college level, the hope is Williams evolves into a serviceable QB.
He’ll have some talented backs to carry the ball if injuries have healed. Armand Shyne and Zack Moss will be the main men after both missed time last season. They combined for 755 yards when Joe Williams wasn’t eating up the carries. Troy Williams also proved to be elusive compiling 235 yards on the ground. Taylor liked throwing the ball at EWU and the makeup of the Utah roster isn’t built for a lethal aerial attack. Troy Williams wasn’t the most efficient passer last season and if he fails to grasp the offense, there are options.
With Lowell Lotulelei back on the defensive line, Kyle Fitts returning from an injury that cost him nearly all of 2016 and a strong group of linebackers, the Utes should again be strong against the run. They were the best in the Pac-12 in rush defense and collected 43 sacks last season. The offense is a work in progress and with cross-over games at Washington and an improved Oregon, that first South title will have to wait at least another season. However, a bowl game looks like a certainty.
Week 1: Utah vs. North Dakota, Thursday, August 31
Week 2: Utah at BYU, Saturday, September 9
Week 3: Utah vs. San Jose State, Saturday, September 16
Week 4: Utah at Arizona, Friday, September 22
Week 5: OFF
Week 6: Utah vs. Stanford, Saturday, October 7
Week 7: Utah at USC, Saturday, October 14
Week 8: Utah vs. Arizona State, Saturday, October 21
Week 9: Utah at Oregon, Saturday, October 28
Week 10: Utah vs. UCLA, Friday, November 3
Week 11: Utah vs. Washington State, Saturday, November 11
Week 12: Utah at Washington, Saturday, November 18
Week 13: Utah vs. Colorado, Saturday, November 25
|SEC Conference||Big 10 Conference|
|ACC Conference||Big 12 Conference|
|Pac 12 Conference||Big East Conference|
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