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Ever since Kyle Whittingham took over the reins in Salt Lake City back in 2005, the Utah Utes have been the hunters. That won’t be the case when he enters his 15 th season overlooking the program after the squad went on to win the Pac-12 South title for the first time in program history. Had a couple of things gone differently, they might’ve actually gotten the best of the Washington Huskies in the rematch to win the conference! Now the hunted, it’s going to be interesting to see how the team deals with higher expectations with it installed decisive -125 chalk to repeat as division champs at online sportsbooks. With Tyler Huntley and Zach Moss back in the mix along with a number of players back on both sides of the ball, the Utes just might have it in them to live up to those expectations and make it a very special season.
The dynamic and punishing running of Moss will be back in the Utes’ arsenal and will be showcased dramatically by new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig who is back for a second term in SLC. The big man racked up nearly 1,100 rushing yards through nine games before unfortunately suffering a season-ending knee injury. He’ll prove to be a perfect complement to Huntley who has the ability to crush opposing defense’s spirits with both his arm and legs. Defenses will be forced to brace for impact when those two come rumbling around the corner! The offensive line needs to replace two standouts but is in good shape with three veteran hogs returning to the fold. Provided the key players avoid the injury bug, Utah’s offense will have it in it to dramatically improve upon last year’s outputs that saw it finish with average marks across the board.
Where the Utes truly excelled last season was on the defensive side of the ball. While some big shoes need to be filled at linebacker and safety, the unit once again looks to be in tremendous shape after finishing No. 1 against the run and No. 2 overall in the Pac-12 a short season ago. Leki Fotu and Bradlee Anae staying in school was huge; their presence will no doubt force opposing offenses to account for them on every single play as disruptive a force they’ve proven to be throughout their collegiate careers. Throw Viane Moala and John Penisini into the mix, and we’re talking about an NFL caliber defensive line! Jaylon Johnson will be looked upon as the leader of the secondary with him expected to be suiting up on Sundays down the road. An uptick in forced turnovers is to be expected with Morgan Scalley pushing his kids harder to tally more than the 21 accrued last year.
As great 2018-19 was, it was marred by turnovers. Unfortunately, coughing up the pill has been something that’s plagued the program for a long time now. You have to go all the way back to 2014 to find the last time Utah didn’t turn it over 20 times. That’s simply unacceptable! One only has to look back to the bowl debacle of a year ago for confirmation after six miscues allowed Northwestern to battle back from a 20-3 halftime deficit and win the game going away. If the 26 turnovers committed a season ago aren’t drastically reduced, Utah will come up well short of surpassing its 9.5-game season win total odds. The betting markets don’t seem to be high on that occurring with heavy vig currently attached to the low side of that number. The Pac-12 opener on September 20 at USC will be a great barometer for those that decided to fade the Utes the season. If they end up winning that game, it’s going to be tough limiting this team to nine or less wins the rest of the way.