2. KEYS TO THE SEASON
Biggest Key To The Utah Offense
Besides keeping all the skill parts healthy, it would be a major plus if the Utes could stop turning the ball over in bunches. It’s been a puzzling part of the equation for a relatively air-tight program that doesn’t do a lot of things wrong – there have regularly been a LOT of turnovers over the years. The last time Utah didn’t turn it over 20 times in a season? 2014.
Last season, the Utes gave away a whopping 14 fumbles – they were killed by them in the bowl loss to Northwestern – and gave away the ball 26 times in all. The turned it over six times in the two games against Washington, six times against NU, and three times against Arizona State – and lost all four games.
In an improved Pac-12, if you’re looking for the paper-thin difference between a good season and going back to the conference title game, this might be it.
Biggest Key To The Utah Defense
Don’t let running games get into a groove. This will be among the nation’s best run defenses again – good luck averaging more than four yards per carry against this bunch.
But it’s not just about the bulk yards against the Utes, because they won’t be there. It’s actually more about the attempts. Run it 40 times or more against them – meaning you have to stick with it, even if it’s not there – and it works.
Northern Illinois lost early on to the Utes, but they hung around in a 17-6 fight by grinding it out 43 times. Along with turnovers, the other key element in the four losses last year were rushing attempts, with Washington (twice), ASU and Northwestern all running it 40 times or more. No one other than NIU was able to.
To take this one step further, Utah is 3-12 in its last 15 games when teams run the ball 40 times or more.
Key Player To A Successful Season
PK Andrew Strauch, Sr.
And/or freshman Jadon Redding. Go ahead and throw in freshman Ben Lennon, too, as he has to try replacing Mitch Wisnowsky – who finished last year averaging over 45 yards per kick with 24 put inside the 20 – as the new star punter. But he’s considered a potential star. The Utes aren’t so solid at placekicker.
Lou Groza winner Matt Gay is done after nailing 26-of-31 field goals including 10-of-15 from behind 40 yards last season. The gig was supposed to go to Chayden Johnston, but he’s retiring from football to focus on his future life in the health care world.
That leaves Redding or Strauch, a UCLA grad transfer who didn’t get much work, but now has to become a weapon – if he gets the gig.
Key Game To The Utah Season
at USC, Sept. 20
Utah opened up the 1916 season with a scintillating 27-12 win over USC. That was the one and only time the program was able to beat SC in LA.
The Utes have done a nice job over the last few years against the Trojans, but the three wins in five seasons were all in Salt Lake City. This time around, it’s the Pac-12 opener for Utah – USC will have already played Stanford – and there’s a week against Idaho State the week before to tune-up.
Win this, and with three of the next four games at home – and the road game at Oregon State- there’s a shot to go on a massive run and realistically shoot for a 5-0 Pac-12 start before going to Washington.
– Utah Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
2018 Utah Fun Stats
– Field Goals: Utah 26-of-31 – Opponents 9-of-17
– Fumbles: Utah 22 (lost 14) – Opponents 15 (lost 6)
– Passing Yards Per Game: Utah 215.79 – Opponents 215.29