Predictions for the 2016 Utah Football Season

Taking a swing at how the 2016 plays out for the Utes

Brian Swinney

Utah has as much talent and depth as they've ever had on the roster for one season. This team is loaded on the offensive line, defensive line, and in the secondary. The special teams and running backs are both in plus situations while Troy Williams at quarterbacks should give Utah as much consistency as they've had since Brian Johnson. The schedule is favorable with three non-conference games that are wins on paper as well as the majority of the tougher Pac 12 opponents at home. With the Pac 12 South lacking a prohibitive favorite, the time to win the division crown is now. While the offense should be more balanced, expecting comparable production to what Devontae Booker brought is probably unrealistic. The wide receivers could be improved, but that's a big if and I won't believe it until I see it. The defense should be very good, but the linebacker talent and depth should scare the crap out of everyone and will cost them a game somewhere along the line. The loss of your two-time Ray Guy Award winner in Tom Hackett creates a step back in that area as well. The Utes will jump out strong with an undefeated September, including wins over BYU and USC, but October and November will each yield two losses putting Utah a game behind the winner of the USC-UCLA game in the South and send them to the Vegas Bowl....again. (8-4, 5-4)

Michelle Bodkin

Utah appears to be on an upward trajectory after finding out life in a P5 conference is a little different than being in the Mountain West. Injuries are real and depth is a must in order to have a chance to survive and come out on top in the PAC-12. Kyle Whittingham and the Utes are coming off of their best signing class ever and we will soon be finding out if that amounts to more wins. Nationally Utah still seems to be flying under the radar a bit even with finishing last year 10-3 and ranked 17 nationally. The biggest problem the Utes have faced since entering the PAC-12 is offensive production and they made moves this past season to correct that in hiring new wide receivers coach Guy Holliday and bringing in JuCo quarterback Troy Williams and the Florida Gatorade Player of the Year in freshman quarterback Tyler Huntley. With Williams slatted to replace now graduated Travis Wilson it seems a safe bet the Utes will see more even quarterback play game in and game out. The receivers should be just as talented (or more so) than in the past, but does the new coaching and new quarterback make an impact on their production? Utah appears to have an embarrassment of riches at running back, tight end and the offensive line. Defensively it seems to be business as usual for the Utes with easily their best defensive line and defensive backs units they may have ever fielded (which is saying a lot). Linebacker is a huge question mark for Utah, but then again replacing Jared Norris and Gionni Paul is just about as easy as replacing running back Devontae Booker. However, there seems to be more questions about how new linebackers Sunia Tauteoli and Cody Barton will do versus what Joe Williams and Troy McCormick will do for the running backs. Special teams should still be special for the Utes but it will be interesting to see if new Aussie punter Mitch Wishnowsky can match the production graduated Aussie punter and two time Ray Guy winner Tom Hackett put out. With that said how will things shake out for the Utes this season? Their schedule, while difficult, seems to fall out in a favorable way for Utah with BYU, USC, Oregon and Washington all at home. Also worth noting is how bullish Whittingham and his staff have been about this team without ever playing a game which never happens. Taking everything in consideration I think the Utes finish the regular season 10-2 (7-2), they will win the South Division and play for a Conference Title, which I don’t think they get.  It’s not going to be pretty or easy, but I feel like Whittingham will be damned before he lets another division title slip through his fingers. (10-2, 7-2)

Andrew Gorringe

As usual, the main question heading in to the season is the offense and quarterback. Utah seems to have found a big time QB in Troy Williams, but we'll have to wait and see if he lives up to the hype. The offensive line will be a big strength for this team, and that usually results in a lot of success for teams. The coaching staff and wide receivers are talking the talk in regards to the WR's improvement, and now it's time to walk the walk. The defense will be elite once again, but with question marks at the linebacker spot, there's the possibility that they take a step back from last year. I'm not so certain that happens though, as Tauteoli, Barton, Luafatasaga, Thompson and Sanders-Williams should be serviceable. As for the schedule, it really couldn't get much better. Almost all of Utah's games are at home, except UCLA, and the non conference schedule is very manageable. What it comes down to is whether or not you think Troy Williams can elevate Utah's passing attack to a respectable level. If he can, the Utes should be pretty good. I think Williams will, so I think Utah will be pretty good. (9-3, 6-3)

Dan Sorensen


For a team that’s replacing so many big name stars from a season ago, there is a lot of hype around the Utah football program, and for good reason. As always, it’s the defense that will set the tone for Utah this fall. Utah has always been a team that is synonymous with good defensive line play, and this defensive line may be the best that Kyle Whittingham has ever had. The same could be said for Utah’s senior laden defensive backfield. The offense should be improved with a new quarterback that appears better suited to run a more dynamic passing attack, but as good is Joe Williams has the potential to be, he has a difficult task ahead of him in replacing Devontae Booker. The Utes will start strong out of the gate and will win each of their non-conference games handily. Pac-12 play will be more of the same adventure that it’s been the past two years. Like last season, they’ll deliver a stunning win on the road (think UCLA) but will suffer a late loss or two at home (look out for Washington…and Oregon) that may keep a division title out of reach. The Colorado game may be the deciding factor of whether the Utes can hit double digit wins with a bowl victory. Utah finishes tied for the division title. The tiebreaker and hope for a title game shot will depend on which LA school they beat. The good news is that the bowl destination will be decidedly better than Las Vegas. (9-3, 6-3)

Jeff Dunn

This season, as it seems to every year under Kyle Whittingham, hinges on offensive production and consistency. The defense will keep them in most games, so if the offense can do its fair share this will be a good and potentially very good team. The Utes will need Troy Williams to step up and make plays for them in the passing game, particularly over the middle of the field, something they have not done for the past four seasons with Travis Wilson. The offensive line will also have to run block better without Devontae Booker, who was extremely good at finding the tiniest holes in a defense and using his strength and power to break tackles and fall forward. Additionally, the receivers and tight ends will have to be sure-handed and eliminate or at least drastically reduce the number of drops we’ve seen the past couple of years. We will quickly see if coach Guy Holliday has made an impact on this group and whether or not they are ready for primetime. I am going to predict a 9-3 (6-3) season with a loss in the conference championship game and an invite to the Holiday Bowl. They will lose some conference games, but they will win enough against the right teams (USC and UCLA) to give them the all-important tiebreakers. It will be another good season, leaving the Utes one step closer to their dream of playing in the Rose Bowl. (9-3, 6-3)

 

Joel Davidson

It’s 2016 and the Wilson era has come to a close. Utah has lost some key players from a year ago, but there are many reasons to be optimistic. Your roster is stacked with as much talent as ever and leading the way at quarterback is now Troy Williams. He appears to have the skill and determination to help improve the adequacy of the position. You can’t expect to replace Devontae Booker as an individual, but Joe Williams proved late last year that he can do just enough to fill his shoes. The running back roster will aid the starter with guys like Troy McCormick, Marcel Manalo, and maybe even some promising young freshman. The offensive line in front of these guys is one of the best units in the Pac-12. The wide-receivers have a lot to prove, but are getting help from a passionate new coach in Guy Holliday and a quarterback that can deliver the ball. The tight ends again lost a starter to injury in Fakailoatonga, but are experienced with Handley, Moeai, and Hampel. The defense will be the status quo aside from the linebackers, which may be cause for concern. A top defensive line and secondary will do a lot to help them out, but they need to improve before conference play. Tom Hackett won’t be booting bacon at Utah anymore, but Mitch Wishnowsky has a leg on him and Automatic Andy is back as well. The Utes are ready to take the next step on offense and will squeak out a win at home against USC and on the road against Cal to start the season 7-0. However, they won’t be able to overcome the “Chosen Rosen” on the road and end up dropping the next game against Washington as well. Oregon will get its revenge from the drubbing last season, but not by much. UCLA takes the south crown and the Utes find themselves in sunny El Paso on December 30. (9-3, 6-3)

 

James Durant

Utah enters the 2016 season looking to improve on their 10-win 2015. The Utes have their strengths and weaknesses, the same as every team in the country. I think the lack of experience at linebacker is being a little overstated. There will likely be fewer flashy plays and turnovers from the position, but the play of the linebackers will never break a Utah defense. As for the offense, I think they will be improved and will be more efficient across the board, provided the new-look offensive line gels and plays to their abilities. As for special teams, the return game is the only worry. The floor for this team is seven wins, and they should win each non-conference game by 14 or more points. Barring the injury bug, Utah lose to one of the LA schools and either Oregon or Washington, finishing with 10 wins and the division title (10-2, 7-2)

Brett Borg

As we’ve heard every year for the past decade, great things can happen to this Utah team if they can find production from the quarterback. Troy Williams is a big unknown, so it’s hard to predict what will happen, but with Utah being stacked with talent and depth in both of the trenches, the secondary and a having a diverse group of running backs, I think the Utes will be able to allow Williams to slowly find his identity and leave his imprint on this team. I believe Utah will win its first four games, including a victory over a beat-up Trojan team after entering Salt Lake from its Murderer’s Row schedule. Utah will lose its first real road test as they travel up to Berkley to face the Bears, Williams will face adversity on the road that is new to him and the Utes will take some lumps. I also envision another road loss to the Bruins three weeks later. They will rebound and beat the puffed-up Huskies in an easy victory, fueled by the chip on Williams shoulder. They will then return to SLC and get the Arizona monkey off their back in dominating fashion. Though it sounds hard to believe, the Ducks have had the Utes circled on their schedule all year after the embarrassment from their last encounter, and Oregon comes to Rice Eccles and steals a victory as they rebound from a loss to Stanford the week prior. I believe the Utes to finish 9-3, 6-3 and fall one game short of winning the South again. I still expect a possible “What Just Happened?” game that we have seen in the past. I could see the Utes dropping one either at Colorado or Oregon State, but I ultimately left that scenario out of my prediction. Against everyone’s wishes Utah is back in Vegas and facing a Boise State squad. (9-3, 6-3)

Steve Bartle

Things aren’t supposed to look good for a football team when you only return 25% of your offensive production from the previous year, but somehow it does for Utah. The additions of JC transfers Troy Williams & Garrett Bolles are big reasons why. Coach Whittingham has preached toughness and hard work for as long as I can remember, and Troy & Garrett have seemed to not only show they possess those qualities but have seemingly raised the bar for the rest of the team. That’s a great sign for a program that is already known for it’s toughness & physicality. Bolles joins an offensive line group that returns 4 starters from last year, and looks like one of the better units in the Pac 12. That should bode well for the running game that lost Devontae Booker this year to the NFL, but has 3 or 4 running backs that could see a fair amount of carries. The biggest mark on this team is the wide receiver group, there is talent but it’s a lot of unproven talent. Tim Patrick has to be the guy this year, he has all the tools to be a very good one, he just has to go out and do it. Kyle Fulks has also been rather impressive and should be a major factor in the offense as well, same goes for Handley & Moeai. The team also returns a a good number of starters on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive line & backfield groups are both ranked by multiple publications in the top 10 of all college football. The headliners of course being Lowell Lotulelei, Hunter Dimick, Marcus Williams and Dominique Hatfield, but it’s the depth at those groups that is so impressive. The linebackers are unproven, but there is potential there with another JC transfer Kavika Luafatasaga. I also would not be surprised to see 3-safety-Dime packages this year. Special teams looks solid again this year, there won’t be those magical pitch shot punts, but Mitch will be a very good punter in his own right, Phillips will have a good year kicking as well. 

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The Utes caught a break with the schedule, well as much of a break as you can get in the Pac 12 gauntlet. They should jump out to a 3-0 start, the first big test will be vs USC week 4. I believe they get the win that night but follow it up the next week with a little bit of a letdown and lose to Cal. They get back on the winning side of things until the UCLA game in the Rose Bowl, but Troy rallies the guys to beat his former team in front of wild crowd. They beat ASU, but somehow the Ducks get revenge in another wacky Oregon/Utah game, of course Utah beats it’s rival who stumbles to the finish. The Utes finish 9-3 finishing 2nd in the Pac 12 South, this time to UCLA. They take out their frustration of losing out on the Pac 12 south title by beating Minnesota in the Foster Farms Bowl.  (9-3, 6-3)


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