The countdown to the 2006 season continues with a look at the best case scenario for Utah this season. This does not mean that the following will actually take place or that I think it will take place. It does mean however that if everything does come together, I would not be the least bit surprised if the following occurred. I will follow this up with a worst case scenario for the season tomorrow.
Every game on Utah's schedule is winnable, but that does not necessarily mean the Utes will win every one. It is extremely difficult for a team to go undefeated, but it's not impossible. Utah is only two years removed from a 12-0 finish and have come very close to going undefeated over the past few years ('03, '99, '94). With that said, Utah has a favorable schedule to make a lot of noise and if things go unbelievably well, 2006 could be a special season.
9-2-06 @ UCLA
Prior to the 2004 season, it was widely believed that if Utah got past Texas A&M in their opener, they would run the table. Utah not only beat Texas A&M, but they rolled them as well. Oh and they did go undefeated. This year, a win against UCLA would definitely be the step in the right direction, but not nearly the type of win Texas A&M was for Utah in 2004. This will be a difficult game on the road against a team that went 10-2 last year. The best case scenario for this game is that Utah's offense should be greatly improved over last year's, and their defense completely dominates Ben Olson early. Utes win 35-17.
A home opener against a pretty pitiful D1-AA team on the heels of an impressive win against UCLA will only equal another dominant Utah performance. NAU has no chance as Utah's offense rolls down the field on nearly ever possession, scorching their defense. On the other side of the ball, NAU's offense is no test for the Utes and they roll to a blowout win. Utes win 63-3.
9-16-06 @ USU
Utah's second road game of the season against rival Utah State. The Aggies have struggled against the Utes and that won't change this season. Utah dominates early and often, building an insurmountable halftime lead, coasting to victory. Utes win 49-10.
9-23-06 @ SDSU
Undefeated, Utah goes on the road for their first conference game. Last year San Diego State stunned Utah in Salt Lake City, but this season the Utes dominate from start to finish. While the Aztecs have a strong defense, it's their offense that struggles against Utah and key turnovers turn into points for the Utes. Building a strong 3rd quarter lead, the Utes roll to a convincing win over an up and coming Aztec team. Utes win 38-21.
9-30-06 Boise State
This might be the game of the year for Utah, especially if Boise State continues to dominate the WAC. The Broncos beat Utah last time these teams met in 1999, but that was two coaches ago for both programs and Utah is looking for a bit of revenge. With the game being played in Salt Lake, the Utes offense exploits the Broncos suspect secondary, while the Utes defense does a good enough job at shutting down BSU's high octane offense. The game remains close for about 2 1/2 quarters, but the Utes blow it open in the mid-3rd quarter. Utes win 42-28.
This game could pit two undefeated teams looking for not only an inside track at the conference championship, but a BCS bowl berth as well. The Utes barely lost to TCU last year in Fort Worth and with the home crowd behind them this season, pull out a very close win against an experienced Frogs team. Utes win 31-28.
10-14-06 @ Wyoming
Utes walk into Laramie and crush the Cowboys on both sides of the ball. Wyoming struggles to find any footing as the Utes dominate. Utes win 42-17.
10-19-06 @ New Mexico
Utah has struggled against the Lobos recently, but this year the Utes have a strong showing, shutting down the Lobo defense and doing just enough on offense to keep the game out of reach. New Mexico may hang in there for the first half, but after that it's all Utah. Utes win 31-10.
Utes own UNLV and that's not going to change. Utah's offense rips apart the Rebels weak defense and UNLV's offense can't put anything together. Utes win 56-13
Rams ripped the heart out of Utah last season with a goalline stand that cost the Utes a victory. This year, there will be no need for a goalline stand as Utah puts the game out of reach well before the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Utes win 35-17.
11-18-06 @ Air Force
Utah and Air Force have had some classic games in the past and even in 2004 -- Utah's most dominant team ever -- the Falcons still put up a commendable effort. This season Air Force stays with the Utes for about a half, but Utah pulls away with ease. Utes win 49-28.
Four in a row for Utah over BYU and that doesn't change. The Cougars' offense will test Utah's defense, but the Utes offense should have no problem putting points up on the board. BYU's offense can't keep up and eventually burns out toward the middle of the 3rd quarter. Utes win 52-28.
Yes, I see the best case scenario as Utah going 12-0. No, this is not my prediction for the season. Utah has the talent and the favorable schedule to run the table, but it takes much more than just that to do so. For that, I can't ever say undefeated is a prediction because it's difficult to predict the intangibles of a season. Will I be floored if Utah goes 12-0? I wasn't in 2004, so I won't be this season. Will I be floored if Utah lost a game this season? I wasn't in 2005, so I won't be this season. I generally believe Utah will win 9-12 games this year not including their bowl. I just also believe that 12-0 is the best case scenario for the Utes and tomorrow you'll see what my worst case scenario is.