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Utah had the Pac-12 South locked up last year starting with six-straight wins, including a monumental blow out at Oregon, but that lead in the division quickly dissipated. The Utes went on to lose three games the rest of the way, all of them against South opponents, which eventually saw them lose a tiebreaker to USC. It was an unfortunate result for a team that looked primed to take a major leap early on. But yet, they still finished with 10 wins and it's hard to see them surpassing that total with a new quarterback and running back in tow.
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The quarterback competition is far from over with the expected favorite Troy Williams taking the last couple weeks off in spring due to a sore arm. Tyler Huntley joined the mix by outplaying Brandon Cox in the spring game, making things even more interesting. Utah also loses stud back Devontae Booker, but is in good shape with speedy Joe Williams (477 yards, 3 TDs) in the waiting, who should see the bulk of carries. He probably won't be used as much as Booker was, so Troy McCormick and Marcel Manalo should have roles to play as well.
Another big competition to watch is at wide receiver where the Utes lose their top three guys from a year ago. Converted tight end Caleb Rupp made the most of the spring game and led the way, but he's still behind Raelon Singleton, Cory Butler-Byrd and Tyrone Smith on the depth chart. Either way, drops were an issue in the spring game and bogged down the offense a bit in a 14-7 result. The offensive line didn't look great in the spring either, but have enough returning starters to not drop off much from last year.
As usual with Utah, it'll be the other side that leads the charge, especially in the early going. Expect the defense to be the Utes' route to three non-conference wins before hosting USC in the early season. The line dominated the spring and with the options they have, that isn't too surprising. Kendall Huey, Hunter Dimick and Kylie Fitts are great on the end while Lowell Lotulelei has the middle of the field.
Linebacker is probably their biggest question with zero returning starters, but they showed well in the scrimmage and that shouldn't be a huge issue going forward. It helps that the line and secondary have all the experience with safety Marcus Williams and Dominique Hatfield the names to know in the back.
The early going should be smooth sailing for the Utes, but their first test comes right away in Pac-12 play against USC. They'd like to open with a win against the Trojans, especially after USC stole the South from them in 2015. Unfortunately, it doesn't get any easier for the Utes as they get five road games in conference play, ending the season with four on the road in their final six. Getting teams like Oregon and Washington at home helps, but not if they can't beat the likes of Arizona State or California on the road.
The Utes have the third-best odds to win the South, but that's not saying much as their over/under is at 6.5 wins (-155 at 5Dimes). But with their schedule, that doesn't seem too hard to hit if they win three in non-conference play. As long as their new quarterback doesn't completely screw things up, the defense should be good enough to get to seven wins.
2016 Utah Utes Football Schedule
Sept. 1 vs. Southern Utah
Sept. 10 vs. BYU
Sept. 17 at San Jose State
Sept. 23 vs. USC
Oct. 1 at California
Oct. 8 vs. Arizona
Oct. 15 at Oregon State
Oct. 22 at UCLA
Oct. 29 vs. Washington
Nov. 10 at Arizona State
Nov. 19 vs. Oregon
Nov. 26 at Colorado
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