USA Today

Ranking Utah's 2016 opponents in order of difficulty

Utah's schedule is filled with a tough conference slate and softies out of conference

1) at UCLA

It's on the road against a likely preseason top 20 team with arguably a top 5 national QB and a defense that should be very good. Utah won their last game at the Rose Bowl and played the Bruins very close back in 2012. A very winnable game, but on paper, it's the toughest.

Win percentage chance: 35%

2) at Arizona State

The Utes are 0-2 at Sun Devil Stadium since joining the Pac 12 and these two teams are pretty comparable in terms of talent entering the 2016 season. This is a November matchup so the new QBs for both teams will be broken in. ASU might have the most athletic defense in the conference.

Win percentage chance: 40%

3) vs Oregon

Revenge game for the Ducks? They'll have a new QB, but this game goes down in late November, so they should have it settle by then, and Royce Freeman is the most underappreciated back in the country. The Oregon speed vs the Utah offense. Maybe the hardest game to predict entering the season.

Win percentage chance: 50%

4) vs USC

It's the most important game of the season for the Utes to win, but with two similar styles, it's all about who executes best. The Pac 12 opener for both teams, USC will have a fairly green QB out there and a defensive line that is brand new. The Trojans are more talented, but the Utes offensive line and home field give them the edge.

Win percentage chance: 55%

5) vs Washington

Another tough one to predict, but the Huskies probably have the best returning QB/RB duo in the conference with Browning and Gaskins. Throw in an elite defense and you've got the makings of a slugfest at the end of October.

Win percentage chance: 60%

6) at Cal

Jared Goff is gone, but the Bears are going to have an improved defense and may actually have upgraded their group of playmakers. It's the first Pac 12 roadie of the season and is the week after USC, so that helps the Bears.

Win percentage chance: 60%

7) vs Arizona

The new nemesis? The Utes are 0-2 at Rice-Eccles against the Wildcats including the 2014 debacle in the rain, but they lost pieces on defense and a few offensive players. Solomon is back at QB and Wilson at running back, but Utah is a better team and will have an extra day to prepare.

Win percentage chance: 65%

8) vs BYU

The rivalry games is generally a close one, regardless of the talent on each sideline. The Utes will have an extra two days to prepare and a more complete team, but BYU has the edge at QB and linebacker. Utah should win, but it won't be a walk-over.

Win percentage chance: 65%

9) at Colorado

Colorado is a pain in the butt every single time Utah plays them. You can see the talent discrepancy, but for some reason, the Buffs always keep it close. They're trending up and this is on the road. Not an easy one.

Win percentage chance: 70%

10) at San Jose State

SJSU lost some pieces from 2015 uncluding a running back that went in the 4th round of the draft, but this is the kind of game that catches a team off guard coming off of contest against BYU and a week before USC. If Utah plays their game, they'll win easily, but the possibility for a letdown against a highly inferior opponent exists.

Win percentage chance: 84%

11) at Oregon State

The Beavs are bad. Home or road, it won't matter. Unless the weather causes problems, the Utes should win easily.

Win percentage chance: 85%

12) vs Southern Utah

The Utes have won 8 straight season openers. This is against an SUU squad with a new coach. If Utah loses, Whittingham should return his most recent extension.

Win percentage chance: 99%

Ute Zone Top Stories