Prediction: Utah should go bowling

Utah looks to go bowling in a tough Pac-12 Conference.

NCAA Football: Utah at Southern CaliforniaQuarterback Travis Wilson scrambles away from a USC defender last season in the Coliseum. Wilson starts under center as the Utes open the 2014 season with a pair of home games. Three of Utah’s first four games are in Salt Lake City. (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports).

(C+P) — With the University of Utah football season underway, it’s that time of the year to start making predictions about what the Utes will accomplish this fall.

Utah should begin the season on a winning streak. The Utes start things off with Idaho State, an easy FCS. Followed by Fresno State, who just lost star quarterback, Derrick Carr, to the Oakland Raiders of the NFL. That game should definitely be winnable, but the days of a guaranteed win for the Pac12 against a MWC foe are a fading memory.

The Utes then head to Big Ten country to face Michigan in the Big House, but with Rich Rodriguez’s recruits mostly gone and current coach Brady Hoke on the hot seat, the Utes should match up well with the Wolverines.

The fourth possible win in a row could come when Washington State visits Salt Lake City. Although the Utes lost to them last year, it was a very close, winnable game and one they should handle this year, especially at home. After that, the Utes face UCLA in the Rose Bowl. Not exactly friendly territory, and a difficult place for the team to grab a fifth win, so this might be where the “tough wins” start.

Two weeks later, the Utes head to Corvallis, Oregon and face another opponent they have a very good shot at beating, Oregon State. With Brandin Cooks gone, that will help the Utes’ cause, but the trip to the Beavers’ neck of the woods will no doubt be tough.

Head coach Kyle Whittingham enters his 10th season at the helm. The 2008 National Coach of the Year has participated in more victories (161) than anyone in school history over his 20-year tenure with the Utes. (Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports).
Head coach Kyle Whittingham enters his 10th season at the helm. The 2008 National Coach of the Year has participated in more victories (161) than anyone in school history over his 20-year tenure with the Utes. (Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports).

The second half of the season will be more of an uphill challenge, with the likes of Oregon and Arizona State on the schedule, so losses could easily stack up if Utah doesn’t prepare. But the Utes have a strong possibility of starting things off with a blast. If Utah stays healthy and takes care of business, especially early on in the schedule, postseason play will return for Utah football for the first time since the 2011-2012 season.

Other predictions across the country regarding Utah football focus on the players. There was much debate regarding the stability of Travis Wilson at the quarterback position. As much as Utah fans hope that Wilson will suit up and lead for all 12 games, there are no guarantees. One big sack could mean more head trauma for Wilson. Even if he stays healthy, one of the Utes stable full of quarterbacks could prove to be more deserving of the starting job. Kyle Whittingham has yet to be impressed with any of his quarterbacks and has not named a starter for week one, but I’m predicting it will be Wilson with Conner Manning as the backup and Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson in the third-string slot. That order could quickly change though, and Ute faithful may soon be cheering a passer other than Wilson at the helm.

Other players to watch include wide receiver Kenneth Scott, who should be both healthy and hungry for a breakout season. It’s that kind of hunger and swag that the Utes sorely need to make any kind of impact in the Pac-12. Other members of the receiver core include Devontae Booker, who made himself into the beast of the spring game with multiple big plays. Look for Booker to bring the traditional Utah style of running back to the field with his ability to grind out games for the Utes. Perhaps the most exciting, dominant and vocal player for the Utes this fall is University of Miami transfer Gionni Paul. The linebacker brings the talent, attitude, and swagger of “The Muss” to the “U.” He should be a leader on the field, not only in defensive production, but also in his ability to lead the team through any ups and downs during conference play.

In general, Utah should see a boost this upcoming season in both offensive and defensive production. As long as the team can stay healthy, it looks as though Utah will finally have a solid corps of Pac-12 players that should bring a much needed level of desire, confidence, and aggressiveness to the Hill.

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