Utah's reign atop the Pac-12 South came to a halt last season after the Utes fell short in their bid to claim the division crown for a third consecutive season. Will a different scenario unfold this year? Things are trending in a promising direction for Utah. The Utes return a plethora of starters on offense and defense from a team that ended 2020 on a three-game winning streak.
A favorable schedule awaits Utah in league play. The Utes get Oregon and Arizona State at home and miss Washington. Their toughest road game, at USC, comes following a bye week.
Can Utah rise up and reach the Pac-12 Championship Game for the third time in four seasons? Here at Athlon Sports, we share our thoughts on Utah's chances of making another run at a title.
Utah Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2021
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The Pac-12 South is one of the hardest divisions to predict this preseason. USC has the talent and schedule, Arizona State has momentum behind a good mix of talent and experience, while Utah has a relatively favorable slate, the best coach (Kyle Whittingham), and is the most reliable program out of that trio. With that in mind, I’m taking the Utes to win the South and push for double-digit victories this fall. The addition of transfer quarterback Charlie Brewer should bolster a passing game that struggled in 2020, which adds to an offense that figures to have a steady ground game again and likely one of the top lines in the conference. As usual, Utah will be strong on defense, and the return of seven starters should entrench this group near the top of the Pac-12. The depth of the conference will show off with an expected loss or two somewhere along the way (I’m guessing at Oregon State but easily could be somewhere else), but I still think the Utes win the South and push for 10 victories in 2021.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
There doesn't appear to be a clear-cut favorite in the Pac-12 South but you can certainly make a strong argument for the Utes. For one, their recent track record under head coach Kyle Whittingham speaks for itself. You also know that this team will play tough, physical defense, especially with eight starters returning. The two biggest unknowns are the quarterback and running back positions. The latter can be filled by a committee if need be but it's under center where I am most intrigued. I think Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer can really thrive in this offense, assuming he wins the starting job. I think he will, which is why I had a hard time finding even two losses on this schedule. The game in Los Angeles against USC could end up deciding the division, but I also see a potential path for Utah to win it with a loss on Oct. 9. As long as all the pieces come together and the key guys stay healthy, I think these Utes could potentially win 10 games in the regular season alone.
John Coon (@johncoonsports)
You always know what you're going to get with Utah. This is a team built on rugged defense and a punishing running game. The biggest question marks are at quarterback and running back. Both Charlie Brewer and Cameron Rising seem capable of leading the offense at quarterback. Running back will be by committee to start, but backs like Micah Bernard and Tavion Thomas have the ability to emerge as stars. Once the Utes figure out those two positions, there is no visible limit to what this team could achieve in the season ahead.
Experience will be a boon for this group. Utah returns seven starters on defense and nine on offense. The entire offensive line returns, which will make breaking in new faces at multiple skill positions an easier task. Linebacker is another area of strength with Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell leading a deep and talented group.
Utah gets a favorable schedule. USC and BYU are the toughest road opponents and both games are early in the season. The Utes have a chance to make some serious waves nationally if they knock off the Trojans and Arizona State in back-to-back weeks in October. A 10-win season and another shot at winning a Pac-12 title are within reach.