It's time to look at each game on the 2012 docket for the Utes. This team is better than they were last season with Jordan Wynn back and healthy, John White returning, and the deepest receiving corps in the conference. There are concerns on the offensive line, but those will be ironed out in the first three games against lesser opponents. So how do I see each game playing out? Here we go:
The Bears are coming off of a winless season in 2011 as an FCS school. No need to worry as the Utes should have their way and allow some of the younger players to develop into their roles in a game situation and gain valuable playing time. Could we see a Travis Wilson sighting?
Utah 45 Northern Colorado 3
Running Record (1-0, 0,0)
@ Utah State
Gary Anderson is building something up in Logan, and while they might be ready to compete with the BYU's of the world, Utah is a different animal. The losses of two of the best players ever to suit up for the Aggies in running back Robert Turbin and linebacker Bobby Wagner will set this team back a bit early on and the Utes shouldn't have much trouble in a game that Kyle Whittingham will remove his foot from the gas pedal in the half.
Utah 35 Utah State 17
Running Record (2-0, 0-0)
The rivalry game just doesn't feel the same in September. Everyone seems to think that BYU will be improved over last season, and they just might be with Riley Nelson back and two very good receivers in Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo. There aren't any huge concerns for the Cougars on either side of the ball, but an athletic team like Utah should be able to beat a slow team with their speed. It'll be closer than last season, but Utah still has a solid advantage over BYU, especially at Rice-Eccles.
Utah 31 BYU 20
Running Record (3-0, 0-0)
@ Arizona State
The Utes took a beating from the Sun Devils last season in Salt Lake City before the wheels came off and Dennis Erickson was fired at season's end. This is a whole new team with a new QB and a new head coach. With this game in Tempe in September, temperatures could be around 100 degrees. ASU has a penchant for starting the season strong and Utah will need to be on guard against a team, that on paper, they should handle.
Utah 34 Arizona State 27
Running Record (4-0, 1-0)
It's the Pac 12 South game of the year on a Thursday night as USC comes to town. A nationally televised game, both teams should be undefeated with the Trojans still in the top 3 and Utah likely a top 20 team. The Utes gave the Pac 12 South favorites everythign the could handle in Los Angeles in 2011 and were a botched field goal attempt away from possibly sending the game to ovetime. Now USC comes in as a national title favorite led by Heisman Trophy contender Matt Barkley. The Utes match up fairly well against USC on both sides of the ball, but they don't have the gamebreakers that the Trojans do in Robert Woods and Marquise Lee at wide receiver to go up and down the field. Expect a close one that could go either way, but the Trojans get the early edge due to wide receiver and quarterback play.
USC 23 Utah 21
Running Record (4-1, 1-1)
This screams trap game. Coming off the emotional Thursday nighter against USC, it's time for a letdown, and this is a logical spot. UCLA will be revamped with a new head coach and new quarterback in the highly talented Brett Hundley. If this game is in Salt Lake City, the Utes are an easy pick, but playing in the Rose Bowl the week after taking on a possible top ranked USC team, and a UCLA team filled with size and athletes is a bad combination. It won't be a blowout, but this could be the stinker game of the year for Utah.
UCLA 27 Utah 17
Running Record (4-2, 1-2)
@ Oregon State
If this game was the week before, you could insert the Beavers as the trap game of the year, but after two straight losses, Kyle Whittingham will get the troops refocused and they'll pull out a nailbiter in Corvallis against an OSU team that will be much better than last season in a game reminiscent of Wazzu in 2011.
Utah 24 Oregon State 23
Running Record (5-2, 2-2)
The Utes laid an egg against the Bears in 2011, getting dominated on both sides of the ball. Now they get them at home against a Cal team that consistently struggles on the road. Whether it's Zach Maynard or Allen Bridgford at the helm won't matter, as the Utah defensive line will give them fits. Cal will be the surprise team in the North, but asking them to come into Rice Eccles and get a win is asking too much. The Utes should take this one.
Utah 23 Cal 17
Running Record (6-2, 3-2)
Get ready for points. Wazzu wasn't stopping anybody before Mike Leach arrived, and now they'll give up even more points. The flip-side to it that they'll score a lot more as well with their air raid attack that should have quarterback Jeff Tuel lead the conference in passing yards. This will be a fun one as both teams score, but Utah ends up scoring a lot more on their way to a decisive victory.
Utah 41 Washington State 20
Running Record (7-2, 4-2)
There's not a game on the schedule I like less than this one for the Utes. Washington is underrated and the second best team in the Pac 12 North. They return a quarterback in Keith Price that could end up with 4,000 yards of total offense. The defense has been overhauled, which isn't a bad thing after the second half struggles they had on that side of the ball. Chris Polk won't be easy to replace, but the amount of talent in Seattle is near the top of the conference, and Husky fans are as rabid as they come in the Pac 12. The Utes are going to drop at least two road games, and this will be one of them.
Washington 24 Utah 20
Running Record (7-3, 4-3)
New coach. New offense. Same result. The Utes knocked off the Wildcats in 2011 in Tucson, an shouldn't have any trouble in Salt Lake City with a team in a serious rebuild. Matt Scott will be dynamic in Rich Rod's offense, but there are too many holes on both sides of the ball for Arizona to play with Utah in Salt Lake City. The Utes should make this look easy.
Utah 35 Arizona 24
Running Record (8-3, 5-3)
It won't happen again. It can't happen again. Expect Colorado to be slightly better in 2012, but the Utes will be looking for revenge after the shocking home loss to close out the 2011 regular season. A trip to Boulder isn't what it used to be and Utah shouldn't have any trouble knocking off the Buffaloes.
Utah 27 Colorado 13
Running Record (9-3, 6-3)
So there you have it. 9-3 and 6-3 in conference. I think most Ute fans will take that. The Utes should only be prohibitive underdogs in 2 games (USC and at Washington), but there are multiple swing games that could go either way (at UCLA, At Oregon State, at Arizona State, home against Cal). Good teams win those swing games and Utah has a good, disciplined, focused team that will pull out their fair share. Ute fans should be excited for what's to come in 2012.
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