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The first season of Pac-12 play has been a struggle for the Utes.
It has been quite a successful decade for the Utah football program. The Utes have made a bowl game in every season except 2002 over the last 10 years, including undefeated seasons in 2004 and 2008. Under Urban Meyer and current coach Kyle Whittingham, Utah became the classic “BCS buster” as it challenged schools like Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh and Alabama in the postseason and won. But those were one-game scenarios, and life in a BCS league has been rough on the Utes. They are 0-4 in Pac-12 play and 3-4 overall. For a squad without Oregon or Stanford on the schedule, it would be highly disappointing to not be playing football in December.
Does Utah make a bowl game?
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Utah has been one of the more difficult teams to figure out this season. The Utes have been very good at times — most notably in a 54–10 win at BYU and a 26–14 win at Pittsburgh — but they are 0–4 in the Pac-12 and have failed to score more than 14 points in any league game. But at 3–4 overall, this team still has a very good chance of playing in a bowl game. Why? The schedule is very, very kind down the stretch. To reach six wins, Utah has to go 3–2 against the following slate: Oregon State, Arizona, UCLA, Washington State and Colorado, and three of the games (OSU, UCLA, CU) are in Salt Lake City. The key will be the play of quarterback Jon Hays, who was inserted into the starting lineup three weeks ago after Jordan Wynn went down with an injury. Hays played well in the win over Utah but has a 1-to-6 TD-to-INT ratio in his other two starts, losses to Arizona State and California. If Hays can limit his mistakes, which he should against weaker competition, the Utes should be able to win at least three of their remaining five games and return to a bowl game for a ninth straight season.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Utah’s first season in a BCS conference has been a struggle. The Utes have dealt with an injury to quarterback Jordan Wynn, while trying to build their depth to match up with other Pac-12 teams. Running back John White has been a bright spot, the offense still has a lot of question marks with the offensive line and a group of inexperienced receivers. With five games to go, Utah needs to find three wins in order to reach a bowl game. The Utes have favorable matchups remaining against Oregon State, UCLA, Washington State and Colorado. It’s not going to be easy with a lackluster offense and a backup quarterback, but I think the Utes will find a way to get to six wins. If Utah can’t get bowl eligible, there’s a strong possibility the Pac-12 will only have four teams play in the postseason.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
The Utes have figured out real quick what life in a BCS conference is all about. Utah has four conference losses (0-4) and will likely lose six games for the first time since 2002. However, with two quality non-conference wins over BYU and Pitt, and the easier half of their schedule still ahead of them, there is reason for optimism in Salt Lake City. Utah has to win three of its last five to get to its ninth straight bowl and on paper it seems very feasible. Oregon State, UCLA and Colorado visit the Utes while Utah has to travel to Arizona and Washington State. They will finish 3-2 over the final five and sneak into a bowl game at 6-6.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I think Utah makes the postseason based on the upcoming schedule, but it would not shock me to see Kyle Whittingham’s club miss a bowl game. There have been injuries, but much of the current record reflects finally playing an entire BCS-level slate. With the Utes struggling to score points, I’m not sure they will keep up with Arizona in Tucson. Home games with UCLA and Colorado should produce wins, so that would leave Utah needing one win against either Oregon State at home this weekend or at Washington State. The Beavers and Cougars are one-dimensional throwing teams, but both can put points on the scoreboard if the Utes are not ready to go. I’ll cautiously say Utah gets in at 6-6, but the Utes have not inspired much confidence with their recent play.