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2018

Utah

College Football

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Utah has always been a feisty team under Kyle Whittingham, but the Pac-12 title game continues to elude this squad. Last year, the only reason the Utes made a bowl game was because of an easy non-conference slate and wins against the worst teams in the conference en route to a 7-6 record. But with close to no changes on the coaching staff and an offense expected to improve with a returning quarterback, the hopes are high. That hope is seen in the odds as the Utes have the second-best Pac-12 South National Championship odds (+20000 at 5Dimes Sportsbook) to go with an over/under of seven wins.

Quarterback Tyler Huntley and coordinator Troy Taylor are in their second season with the offense, which means things will get better for a group that scored just under 30 points per game. Huntley was decent as a first-year starter (65.4% completion, 480 rushing yards, 19 total TDs), but he needs to reduce his 10 interceptions. That should be possible behind a line that returns four starters, as well as all of the relevant running backs in Zack Moss (1,023 yards, 9 TDs), Devonta’e Henry-Cole and Armand Shyne. The only offensive question comes in the receiving game where Siaosi Mariner (393 yards) and Demari Simpkins (27 receptions) are the top returnees. Britain Covey is also expected to return and that can only mean good things for the offense.

The question is if Utah’s defense can top last year’s numbers, allowing 23.2 points per game. Often the better group of the two, the defense faltered numerous times last season and that led to a 3-6 conference record. Improvement will have to be made with new players because the front seven has a lot of new faces. End Bradlee Anae and linebacker Chase Hansen (formerly a safety) are the biggest names and will be the ones making the most plays. There is experience up front, but a lot of players are moving into bigger roles. There’s no worry on the back end and that could help things up front with corner Julian Blackmon joined by a slew of others with experience including sophomore Jaylon Johnson. Throw in the best kicker and punter in the Pac-12 and possibly country and Utah is set for a better season.

It won’t be easy doing that, but the Utes should get another three wins in non-conference play. To surpass six wins, they’ll need to grab a road upset or two, likely coming at UCLA, Arizona State or Colorado in the second half of the year. Outside of the game against Arizona, the home schedule is tough with Washington and USC on the slate. In fact, the Utes get the four best teams out of the North, which is a reason winning the South will be difficult. Reaching eight wins is a possibility if the offense can take another step with Huntley, but more than that is a stretch unless the defense suddenly turns dominant again. The schedule will keep Utah from doing more, but a win or two more from last year is still on the table.

 

2018 Utah Utes Football Schedule

Aug. 30 vs. Weber State

Sept. 8 at Northern Illinois

Sept. 15 vs. Washington

Sept. 29 at Washington State

Oct. 6 at Stanford 

Oct. 12 vs. Arizona

Oct. 20 vs. USC

Oct. 26 at UCLA

Nov. 3 at Arizona State

Nov. 10 vs. Oregon

Nov. 17 at Colorado

Nov. 24 vs. BYU

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