Utah: Facts and Factors

Utah hasn't been great since joining the Pac-12, but they have a bit of an offensive guru who has transformed their offense so far this season...

• UCLA will travel to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Utes Thursday at 7:00 PST. The game will be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1.

• Utah is 3-1 overall and 0-1 in the Pac-12, having beaten Utah State (30-26) and Weber State (70-7) at home, and then losing to Oregon State (51-48 in overtime) at home, and then beating BYU (20-13) on the road last week.

• UCLA is 3-0 and ranked 13th in the nation.

• The Bruins lead the all-time series with the Utes, 9-2, and are 3-2 in Salt Lake City. Utah, however, has won two of the last three games – in 2007 and 2011 – before UCLA beat the Utes in the Rose Bowl last season.

• Perhaps most significant is that UCLA's two recent losses to Utah were in Salt Lake City, and both were blowouts, 44-6 (2007) and 31-6 (2011).

•Kyle Whittingham is in his 9th year as the Utah head coach, with a record of 74-33. Since the Utes joined the Pac-12 in 2011, he's 16-13, and has yet to post a winning Pac-12 season. He has almost as many losses (12) in the Pac-12 in two years and one game than he had in seven seasons in the Mountain West (13). Whittingham had the program rolling until coming into the Pac-12, where stiffer competition severely impacted his success. He's known as a defensive guy, having been Utah's defensive coordinator before being promoted to head coach, and was a former linebacker at BYU.

• Not only was the Pac-12's stiffer competition a bit of an encumbrance for Utah the past two seasons, its offense was also a major contributor to its lack of success. In 2011, former UCLA and USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow took over the Utah OC job and fielded one of the worst offenses in the country, being ranked 109th overall. Then last year, Whittingham promoted then-24-year-old quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson to OC, and Utah was ranked 105th in total offense for 2012. It seems like Whittingham had had enough, and he coaxed Dennis Erickson out of retirement this season to be Co-Offensive Coordinator with Johnson, and Erickson has proven he knows offense. So far this season, the Utes are 20th nationally in total offense.

• Quarterback Travis Wilson was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week after passing for 273 yards and two touchdowns (no turnovers) in Utah's win against BYU last week.

• Wilson made his first career start last year against UCLA as a true freshman in the 21-14 Bruin win.

• Utah's leading receiver is Dres Anderson, the son of former UCLA receiver Flipper Anderson, who played at UCLA from 1984 to 1987. Flipper led UCLA in receiving yards in 1986 and 1987 and ranks 10th in UCLA history with 2,023 career receiving yards.

• Utah cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah is the brother of Karim Abdul-Jabbar, who was a running back at UCLA in 1992-1995, and is the fifth-leading rusher in school history with 3,812 career yards.

• Utah also has a bye this week heading into next Thursday's game. Whittingham is 6-2 coming off regular-season byes, but both losses have come in Pac-12 play in the last two seasons.

• Eight true freshman Utes have played so far this season, while 16 true freshman Bruins have seen the field.

• Utah annually bestows the Don Reddish Award to the head coach of any Ute program that had the most successful season the previous year. It will be awarded at the UCLA game to Kevin Sweeney, who is the Utah ski coach.

• Utah has 21 straight sellouts of Rice-Eccles Stadium, going back to the first game of the 2010 season. Nineteen of those games were standing-room-only crowds that exceeded the stadium's 45,017-seat capacity. There are a few hundred bleacher seats and standing-room-only tickets still remaining for the UCLA game.

• The game will be Utah's sixth annual black-out game, with the Utes in all-black uniforms and the fans predominantly wearing black. Utah is 4-1 in blackout games.

• Utah is the unofficial champion of the State of Utah, and is duly awarded the Beehive Boot, which is given to the in-state FBS program that beats the other two in any given year. This year the Utes beat Utah State and BYU, while also beating Weber State, but Weber State doesn't participate in the Beehive Boot competition since it's an FCS program.

• Utah will be playing in its third straight game with a kick-off of 8:00 p.m. local time or later.

• The early betting line for the game is UCLA -5.

• The weather forecast calls for a high of 55 degrees Thursday, with a 35% chance of rain. Game-time temperature should be in the upper 40s.


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