They aren't who we thought they were. The players. The coaches. None of them. The season isn't lost, but it's not going to be what it could have been, even after the loss to TCU. The difference between a 12-1 season with a bowl victory and a 11-2 season with a bowl victory are huge in the eyes of the nation. 12-1 likely means a top 10, or maybe even top 7 or 8 finish in the polls. 11-2 is going to put the Utes somewhere around 15, where they'll be respectable, but won't go down in Ute lore as one of the great Utah teams of all time. And all of that is assuming they can win these final two games AND a bowl game, finishing on a strong note.
So, what's happened the last two weeks? The TCU game is understandable, and that said a lot more about who TCU is than about who Utah is. Yeah, the Utes didn't look good and probably should have kept it closer than it was, but Utah wasn't winning that game. It's very apparent now. The Notre Dame game says more about who Utah might be. The Utes didn't play poorly on Saturday, yet were beat by 25. They ran into a team that played well and did two things the Utes didn't do: avoided mistakes, and made all of the big plays.
Where has the big play gone with Utah over the last three weeks? The biggest play from scrimmage on Saturday? A 25 yard pass to the tight end. The longest play against TCU? Another pass to Kendrick Moeia for 23 yards. The Air Force game wasn't much better with a 36 yarder to Luke Matthews being the longest play and the second longest being yet another pass to Moeia for 23 yards. The longest running play over the past three weeks? Two separate 13 yarders by Eddie Wide against Air Force and TCU. The play calling has gone from exciting and unpredictable, to vanilla and expected. How many check-down throws can you make to the running backs? Where has the flea flicker gone that the Utes have converted both times they tried it? Why isn't the Asiata formation being used somewhere other than inside the 15 yard line? Get creative or continue to lose. What you're doing now isn't working.
Is the biggest problem with the offense defensive alignments they've faced? The first seven games of the year the Utah offense faced teams that employed a traditional 4-3 defense and the Utes averaged almost 48 yards per game. In their last three games, they've faced two separate 3-4 defenses and a 3-3-5 defense and averaged under 13 points per game. Their final two opponents will be throwing a 3-3-5 and a 3-4 defense at them. If offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick can't figure out how to move the ball against the non-traditional defense these last two games, he might need to look for a new job, because this isn't going to work in the Pac 12 next year. Not what we were thinking a few weeks ago when Utah was third in the country in scoring.
Jordan Wynn needs to step up. Wynn wasn't as bad as it might have appeared against Notre Dame, but didn't do enough to get his team a win. If he wants to be the leader of this team, a team that wants to compete for conference and national championships, he needs to make a few changes. His decision to slide short of a first down on a third down run instead of taking a hit and fighting for the first down was cowardly and shameful for a football player. It showed that he's going to put his body and himself ahead of the team and whatever it takes for his team to be successful. I don't think that play sums up the type of person or player Jordan Wynn is, but it made an awfully loud statement about what he was thinking and where his head was on Saturday, and where it might be going forward.
Last week I was ready to book a hotel in Vegas for the Las Vegas Bowl. Now, I'm not so sure. Lose this weekend to SDSU and the Utes are looking at the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego. Lose to BYU and the Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas or the New Mexico Bowl will come calling. I don't want to go to either of those places. I've been and would prefer not to go back. Utah has more talent than either of the two remaining teams on their schedule. They have better coaches, better players, and better schemes. There is no reason they shouldn't win the last two, creep back into the top 15, and salvage the rest of the season with some sort of respectability. A far cry from where things stood just a few weeks ago, but still a successful season in the eyes of most.
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Utah Goes Down to ND- What Does It All Mean?
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