A third of the way through the season, the Utes are sitting at 3-1 (0-1) and feeling good after heading to Lavell Edwards Stadium and beating BYU on their own turf this last weekend. While a victory over BYU is always great, there is no time to celebrate as the most important part of the schedule awaits, PAC-12 play. The Utes have gotten off to a 3-1 start to the season, beating Utah State, Weber State, and BYU, and dropping one to Oregon State in overtime. After the first four games, Ute fans should be pretty happy with a 3-1 start. Although, the 0-1 start in PAC-12 play is all too familiar for the Utes, as they have gotten off to a slow start in PAC-12 play the previous two seasons as well.
On offense, the Utes have improved immensely from previous seasons, currently averaging 505 YPG and 42 PPG. These are numbers the Utes' offense hasn't been able to average in a few years now. The addition of Dennis Erickson to this coaching staff has been huge. Not only has he been a great mentor to Brian Johnson, but what he has been able to do with this offense in such little amount of time has been very impressive. For the first time in a couple years now, I am actually excited to watch the Utes on offense because they are finally capable of making big plays on a consistent basis, and can do so both through the air and on the ground.
The improvement of Travis Wilson's game from last season to now has been substantial. Through the first 4 games, Wilson has thrown for 1118 yards, 9 touchdowns, and just 3 interceptions. Wilson is averaging 9.7 yards per attempt, and has a QB rating of 166.6 (82.9 RAW QBR). Add in the 251 rushing yards (7.8 YPA) and 5 rushing touchdowns , and Wilson has looked like a completely different quarterback from a year ago. His decision making is better, he's been going through his progressions much better, has added muscle to that 6'6" frame of his, and has altogether looked much more comfortable than he did a year ago. Whatever Dennis Erickson and Brian Johnson have been working with Wilson on, keep it up.
On defense, the Utes' defensive line has been the bright spot. With the loss of Star Lotulelei and both the Kruger brothers (Joe and Dave), there was a huge concern as to how this 2013 defensive line would reload. Well, Trevor Reilly, Nate Orchard, Tenny Palepoi, and the rest of the group have responded well and have overachieved a lot of people's expectations. Giving up 24 PPG isn't necessarily bad, but that 24 PPG is something this defense cannot afford to let get much higher if this team wants to continue their winning ways.
The secondary needs to improve. A completely different group from a year ago, this secondary has been suspect to a lot of big plays through the air. The inconsistency at both corner and safety has been quite frustrating through these first 4 games, and are currently giving up almost 300 YPG through the air. With nothing but PAC-12 teams who love to sling the ball around remaining on the Utes' schedule, the defensive backs have a lot of improving to do.
With a record of 3-1, the Utes are only 3 wins away from becoming bowl eligible. The only problem, coming up with 3 sure wins for the Utes, as the PAC-12 conference is very deep this year. The remaining teams left on the Utes' schedule are: UCLA, Stanford, Arizona, USC, Arizona State, Oregon, Washington State and Colorado. If you can pick out 3 sure wins from that list, then please let me know because I would love to hear them.
Before the Utes kickoff this next very difficult stretch of games, they are blessed with a bye this week to help heal their wounds, get in the film room, and go over everything that has happened since the season began. Following this bye week, the Utes have a short week as they will welcome the #13 ranked UCLA Bruins to Rice-Eccles on Thursday night. Following UCLA, the Utes will then welcome the #5 ranked Stanford Cardinal to Rice-Eccles before they hit the road for four of the next five games (Arizona, USC, Oregon, Washington State) with a home game against ASU mixed in there. To cap off the season, the Colorado Buffs come strolling into town trying to duplicate what they did to the Utes the previous time they met in Salt Lake City.
As you can see the Utes are in for one heck of a final 2/3 of the season, as the combined record of the remaining teams the Utes will face is 22-3. With the way the offense is moving the ball, the faith I have in the defense stepping up their game, and the way the special teams have been playing, I see the Utes going bowling this season with a lot to look forward to in 2014.
1/3 Season Recap and Look-Ahead
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