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Utah Utes 2017 Football Schedule and Analysis

Troy Williams and the Utes must travel to Los Angeles, Seattle and Eugene in Pac-12 play as well as pay a trip to Provo to face BYU this fall

There's no question Utah has established a lasting foothold as a Pac-12 contender. For three straight seasons, the Kyle Whittingham's Utes have won at least nine games, qualified for a bowl game and finished ranked in the Top 25 nationally. Each time, however, Utah has come up short of claiming an outright Pac-12 South title and earning a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

 

Related: Utah Utes 2017 Spring Football Preview

 

Can Utah rewrite the script and take another step forward in 2017? It will not be a simple task. The Utes return plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, although they must plug holes in the secondary, the backfield and along both lines. Still, the schedule is arduous. Utah has one of the tougher league slates, with cross-divisional opponents Oregon State and California being replaced by Stanford and Washington State this season.

 

2017 Utah Utes Schedule

 

Bye: Week 5

 

Wk Opp. Date Location
1. Aug. 31 Salt Lake City, UT

Utah is 38-0 all-time against Big Sky teams. The Fighting Hawks are poised to offer the Utes a stiffer challenge than many recent Big Sky opponents. North Dakota earned a share of the Big Sky title last season and returns 15 starters on offense and defense. The Fighting Hawks led their league in both scoring defense (22.0 ppg) and rushing defense (91.3 ypg) a year ago. North Dakota's strength on offense is in the running game. John Santiago and Brady Oliveira combined for 1,880 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground last season.

2. Sept. 9 Provo, UT

BYU came within a failed two-point conversion last season of finally snapping its long Holy War losing streak. The Cougars have enough talent and experience on both sides of the ball to give Utah a tough battle again. Tanner Mangum is the starting quarterback again after spending a year behind Taysom Hill. Mangum threw for 3,377 yards and 23 touchdowns as a freshman in 2015. BYU must find a capable successor to all-time leading rusher Jamaal Williams to take pressure off Mangum. On the other side, the Cougars return their top three linebackers – Fred Warner, Butch Pau'u and Francis Bernard – to anchor the defense.

3. Sept. 16 Salt Lake City, UT

The Utes will face a San Jose State team squarely in rebuilding mode. Brent Brennan takes over as head coach after spending the last six seasons as a wide receivers coach at Oregon State. Brennan looks to boost a Spartan offense that ranked 10th in scoring (24.4 ppg) and total offense (377.8 ypg) among Mountain West teams in 2016. San Jose State has depth and experience at receiver where Justin Holmes could be a breakout star after averaging 15.7 yards per catch a year ago.

4. Sept. 22 Tucson, AZ

Injuries to quarterback, running back and other key positions a year ago led to the Wildcats suffering their worst season in a decade. Arizona could not move the ball on offense and ranked outside the top 100 nationally in rushing defense and scoring defense. The Wildcats should at least take a step forward on offense if Brandon Dawkins can stay healthy at quarterback and running backs Nick Wilson and J.J. Taylor can both overcome injuries that plagued them last season. When healthy, Taylor averaged 6.9 yards per carry and Wilson averaged 5.8 per attempt.

6. Oct. 7 Salt Lake City, UT

Utah has had tremendous success against the Cardinal. They own a two-game winning streak over Stanford in Pac-12 play. Making it three straight will be tough. Stanford returns four starters on the offensive line. Bryce Love also could be poised for a breakout season in the backfield, after running for 783 yards and averaging 7.05 yards per game behind Christian McCaffrey last season. Defensively, the Cardinal should be as bruising as usual.

7. Oct. 14 Los Angeles, CA

Utah is the only team to beat the Trojans since Sam Darnold took over as starting quarterback. USC ripped off nine straight wins to close out the 2016 season and enters 2017 as the clear favorite to win the Pac-12 South. Darnold threw for 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns while completing 67.2 percent of his passes in his freshman debut. He'll get plenty of help from Ronald Jones II, who is coming off a 1,000-yard rushing season. USC's defense should be equally dynamic with top tacklers Cameron Smith and Porter Gustin back to lead the unit.

8. Oct. 21 Salt Lake City, UT

Todd Graham has little room for error after suffering two straight losing seasons. Arizona State dropped seven of its final eight games a year ago – including a 49-26 home loss to Utah where the Sun Devils allowed 11 sacks and 22 tackles for a loss. Showing improvement will require Arizona State to shore up a defense that surrendered an FBS-worst 357.4 passing yards per game. Quarterback also is a question mark for the Sun Devils. Manny Wilkins is the returning starter and completed 63.3 percent of his passes last season but must beat out Alabama transfer Blake Barnett for the top spot.

9. Oct. 28 Eugene, OR

A stunning last-second loss to the Ducks marked the low point in a November collapse for Utah a year ago. Oregon is looking to climb the league ladder again under new head coach Willie Taggart. Offense won't be a problem for Oregon if quarterback Justin Herbert can build on a promising freshman season. Herbert threw for 1,936 yards and 19 touchdowns in nine games while completing 63.5 percent of his passes. Defense is the biggest concern for the Ducks. Oregon allowed 518.4 yards and 41.4 points per contest last season – ranking 11th among Pac-12 teams in both categories.

10. Nov. 3 Salt Lake City, UT

Relying on a one-dimensional offense sent the Bruins spiraling downward as the season progressed. UCLA ranked 127th in the nation in rushing offense, churning out just 84.25 yards per game, and its top three running backs all averaged less than four yards per carry. Getting QB Josh Rosen back at 100 percent could go a long way to boosting the offense. Rosen totaled 1,915 yards and 10 touchdowns over six games during an injury-shortened sophomore season.

11. Nov. 11 Salt Lake City, UT

As long as Luke Falk is directing the offense, the Cougars will be a nightmare opponent for any team. Falk threw for 4,468 yards and 38 touchdowns while completing 70 percent of his passes a year ago and is poised to lead the Pac-12 in multiple passing categories again this season. Run defense should be another area of strength. Hercules Mata’afa and Payton Pueller were two of the biggest defensive playmakers a year ago and are back. Pueller led the team with 93 tackles and had 7.5 tackles for a loss. Mata’afa totaled five sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss.

12. Nov. 18 Seattle, WA

Few teams are more dominant on both sides of the ball than the Huskies. It helped them make a first-time run to the College Football Playoff. Washington led the Pac-12 in scoring (17.7 ppg) and total defense (316.9 ypg) a year ago and is poised to pick up where it left off on that side of the ball. The Huskies will be equally tough on offense as long as juniors Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin are around. Browning totaled 3,430 yards and 43 touchdowns and just nine interceptions in 2016. Gaskin ranked third in the league in total rushing yards, churning out 1,373 yards and 10 touchdowns.

13. Nov. 25 Salt Lake City, UT

Can the Buffaloes deliver a satisfying encore after winning the Pac-12 South title a year ago? Colorado went from last to first in the division behind a potent offense and strong defense. The pieces are in place to make another run. QB Steven Montez and RB Phillip Lindsay are an effective one-two punch on offense. Montez proved more than capable of moving the offense while filling in for Sefo Liufau for a short stretch last season. Lindsay ran for 1,252 yards and 16 touchdowns on 5.1 yards per carry. With this duo at the controls, Colorado will be tough to stop.

 

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.

Event Date: 
Monday, April 10, 2017 - 01:06

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