The Utah Utes entered 2018 without having won a single Pac-12 South Division championship. USC, Colorado, Arizona State, Arizona, UCLA – the other five schools in the Pac-12 South all won at least one South title, but Utah was left outside. That changed last year. The Utes took advantage of USC’s decline and the struggles of other division programs to make their first appearance in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
They lost to Washington in a 10-3 game whose only touchdown was an interception return. Their offense did sputter, but they still took a big step forward as a program. Now they will try to repeat as division champions and get it right in the conference championship game, which would give the program its first-ever Rose Bowl berth, which is what everyone in Salt Lake City wants.
Regular Season Win Total: 8.5 Wins
Odds: Over -150 Under +123
Changes From Last Season
The Utes have two specific areas of concerns relative to roster turnover. First, their offensive line loses three of its five starters from 2018. Utah quarterbacks have often gotten injured this decade. That problem has often been the reason Utah has fallen short in previous years. The offensive line can’t be mediocre if this team wants to win the Pac-12 title. The Utes can win the South Division with some stumbles, but they cannot beat Washington or Oregon in the Pac-12 title game if their O-line isn’t ready to roll.
The other main changes are in the back seven, where the two starting safeties and two linebackers have moved on to the pros. Utah does have experienced players ready to step in at those positions, but they are nevertheless going to be thrown into the fire this year.
The best news is that the defensive line returns fully intact from last year, and the quarterback, running back and top receiver – Tyler Huntley, Zack Moss, and Britain Covey – all return. O-line, safety and linebacker are the only positions where this roster has questions.
2019 X-Factor: Tyler Huntley
The position which has usually held back the Utes is quarterback – sometimes because of injury, sometimes because of bad performance, often a combination of both. If Huntley plays to his potential, this will be a fantastic team this season. The Utes have Andy Ludwig as offensive coordinator. He was the OC for the program a decade ago. He spent the past several seasons at Vanderbilt but is now back in Salt Lake City, having replaced Troy Taylor, who took the head coaching position at Sacramento State.
If Huntley and Ludwig work smoothly together and make this offense hum with efficiency, Utah should win at least 10 games in 2019. If Huntley struggles, a quality defense might not be able to save the Utes. It really does come down to quarterback at Utah, because history has not shown otherwise.
The schedule really helps the Utes. BYU is the tough non-conference game, but Utah has owned that series in recent years. In the Pac-12, teams in one division play four games in the other division. Utah’s four games against the Pac-12 North are very good. Only Washington is especially tough. Utah avoids Oregon and Stanford and gets to play Cal and Oregon State. The Utes play Washington State at home. They should be able to go 7-2 in the Pac and win three non-conference games. Take the over here.