Getting to know the new kids on the block

COLORADO AND UTAH arrive on the Pac-12 scene this year with more questions than answers. How will they fare once conference play begins? How will the Cougs match up? Here's a look at some of the happenings in Boulder and Salt Lake City.

Utah will have a new offense this year but the Cougs shouldn't be caught unawares. Norm Chow is entering his first year as Utah's offensive coordinator after a very public, unproductive stretch at UCLA. Chow is replacing Utah's spread option attack with a new multiple-based offense, with a lot more three- and five-step drops and play action passes. Will Utah have some growing pains, or will the offensive and defensive lines, seen as the strength of the team, counterbalance any potential issues?

The Cougs last played Utah in 2000, winning 38-21. The series between the two schools is tied at 5-5.

When Utah visits Washington State on Nov. 19, it will be their eighth consecutive game without a week off. Utah misses both Oregon and Stanford this season, projected to be 1-2 in the final conference standings by many. Utah is 33-6 the past three seasons.

Utah starting quarterback Jordan Wynn is coming off shoulder surgery and missed spring practice. He has, however, been throwing short tosses pain-free in recent weeks. Once thought to be the 2011 QB backup, Griff Robles has moved to linebacker, and Utah is thin at QB with three on the roster. If Wynn were to get dinged up by the time Utah meets WSU, the Utes have no one with any QB experience behind him. Utah also lost three of their running backs from last year.

Utah has heard it the last few years. So has TCU. So has Boise State. A school from a so-called lesser conference pulls off a terrific season resulting in a heightened BCS bowl debate. Some question whether they would have been close to that if they had to play a season long grind in one of the traditional powerhouse conferences -- Would Utah still have forged a 13-0 mark in 2008 had they played in the Pac-10? This year for Utah will be seen as something of a measuring stick in answering that question. As seen below, Sporting News thinks they'll excel. Others think the Pac-12 schedule will take a toll.

Sporting News picks Utah in its first year in the conference to win the Pac-12 South over Southern Cal, Arizona State, Arizona, UCLA and Colorado. Others aren't as optimistic. CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd pegs them third, as does beat writer Lya Wodraska of the Salt Lake Tribune. The San Jose Mercury News places Utah fourth, as does the Denver Post. The Arizona Daily Star says they'll finish fifth, as does the LA Daily News.

Colorado was expecting to have four of five starters back on the offensive line but that number has dropped by one. Senior center Mike Iltis, who has been plagued by injuries over his career, has decided to hang them up and concentrate fully on academics.

Redshirt freshman Daniel Munyer is the leading candidate to replace him. However, Colorado just went out and got a late center signee for the current recruiting class, Brad Cotner, who will transfer from Ventura Community College.

Colorado is changing their offense to a new pro-style set, and installed a small portion of it in the spring. Conventional wisdom says Colorado will struggle as more of it is installed in fall camp, particularly early in the season. Proponents counter that it will be Pac-12 defenses that find they have to adjust. The Cougs travel to Colorado in Week 4, on Oct. 8.

Colorado was 5-7 last season, but 8-4 was well within their grasp. They led Baylor, Texas Tech and Kansas but ultimately lost those games -- by a combined 16 points.

Colorado added three late signees to their recruiting class over the past month or so – Cotner, wide receiver Austin Vincent of DeSoto High School in Texas and athlete D.D. Goodson from Lamar Consolidated High, also in Texas.


Cougfan Top Stories