Kyle Whittingham and company head into 2015 with the deepest, most experienced, and most talented roster Utah football has ever seen. Everything sets up for a legitimate run at a Pac 12 South title. So what' the best case scenario for 2015?
Utah jumps out of the gates quickly with a demolition of Michigan on national TV as Booker goes for over 200 yards, igniting his early season Heisman campaign while Travis Wilson hits 8 different receivers for over 250 yards as the Utes make an early statement that vaults them into the top 20 in the polls. A double digit win over Utah State and then another trouncing of Fresno State (in Fresno) has Utah 3-0 in non-conference (again) and in the top 15 heading into Pac 12 play. Booker is in the top 5 in the country in rushing, averaging 180 yards per game, while Wilson's TD to INT ratio is 9-0 as newcomer Deniko Carter already has 5 TD grabs on 14 catches. The defense holds the first three opponents to 27 points total.
A trip to Oregon opens up Pac 12 play and College Gameday is there as the 14th ranked Utes take on the 4th ranked Ducks. Utah hangs tough, slowing the vaunted Oregon offense, but come up a bit short in a 31-28 classic that ends on an Oregon field goal from 52 yards out. They stay at #14 in the polls.
A home date with Cal gets a bit dicey with Jared Goff throwing for over 400 yards, but 5 Utah sacks and 140 yards from Booker let Utah escape with a 4 point win. The next week Arizona State comes to town and Utah is finally able to take down their nemesis, picking off Michael Bercovicci 4 times, sacking him 7 times, and embarrassing the Sun Devils 38 to 17 with Booker going over 200 yards again.
A date with USC at the Coliseum is next with College Gameday coming West again. This time, Utah pulls the upset, taking down the Trojans in a defensive slugfest 15-14 with Andy Phillips going 5 for 5 on the day, including the winner with 38 seconds to go. The Utah defense holds USC to 9 yards rushing on the day. Utah moves to 5-1 on the year, and grabs a #6 ranking in the country. Tyler Vaughns calls Sharrieff Shah and says he wants to schedule an official visit to Utah.
Next up is the new 'rival' in Oregon State on Halloween. Whittingham has his team as focused as ever. An opening kickoff returned for a TD by the Beavers are the only points OSU gets all night as Utah spanks them by 40 points. Three OSU commits flip to Utah within five days of the big win and the Utes' recruiting class jumps into the top 25. Utah moves up to #5 in the country for the first time since 2010.
A date with Washington looks like a trap game, and the struggling Huskies think they're about to pull the upset until Jared Norris forces a late fumble that Utah recovers. Travis Wilson gets Utah 40 yards down the field and into field goal range for a last second kick by Andy Phillips from 49 yards. He's not Kai Forbath. It splits the uprights and Utah escapes.
The emotion of the previous week is too much for Utah in Tucson as they run an Arizona team that is able to put Utah's defense on their heels for the first time all season. Booker keeps Utah in it with another 150+ yard performance, but a late Wildcat 3rd down conversion in Utah territory lets them run out the clock and sends Utah to loss number 2 and a drop to #9 in the polls.
Utah wins a close one over #16th ranked UCLA at Rice-Eccles behind a flawless performance from Wilson and 2 picks from Reggie Porter before closing out the regular season with stomping of Colorado to get to 10-2. The Utes win the tie-breaker over USC for the Pac 12 South title and get a rematch with the Ducks. Booker goes Beastmode, running for 220 yards and cementing an invitation to New York for the Heisman ceremony as Utah takes down Oregon 34-24, forcing 4 turnovers.
The Utes end up 6th in the college playoff standings and lock-up a spot in their first Rose Bowl. Their opponent? Ohio State, who fell to Nebraska in the Big X title game. Whittingham out-duels Urban Meyer with a tremendous defensive effort by the defense and a mistake-free performance by the offense. Utah finishes 4th in the polls.
Booker ends up finishing 3rd in the Heisman voting after rushing for 1,800 yards and 23 touchdowns. Wilson finishes the year with 25 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions. The defense finishes in the top 15 in every major statistical category. Gary Andersen offers Aaron Roderick his offensive coordinator position. He declines. The Utes sign the 18th ranked class in the country. Osa Masina decides that he wants to play back home and transfers from USC. BYU goes 6-6, holds a press conference at Iggy's to announce they are rejoining the Mountain Wes,t and clears their 2016 schedule to do so. The MWC declines and BYU is forced to play 9 FCS teams on the road the following year. James Cella dies a happy man wrapped in his Rose Bowl Champions snuggie.
Early Best Case Scenario For 2015
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