Earlier this summer, there was a good discussion here on Block U asking where Utah would finish if they were in the Pac Ten. I thought it would be unlikely the Utes would finish with a winning record, predicting they would go 4-5 in the conference if they were to play Washington State's schedule.
Well today, the Pac Ten looks far worse than it did prior to the season and Utah a bit better than I thought they would be before play began. So it's definitely an interesting concept to revisit, especially with how dominant the Mountain West has been over the Pac Ten this season (5-0) and the media comparing the two conferences.
Let me first say I do not believe Utah could beat USC. Maybe if they played the game ten times, Utah could eek out a victory once, but the Trojans look pretty damn good this season and as much as I would love to see a Utah win over them, it would be a rather daunting game. But outside of USC, I don't see one team that Utah couldn't beat in the conference.
Now a look at the remade Washington State/Utah Pac Ten schedule:
Cal (originally a loss) - These Utes would host Cal and I think even on the road they would be capable of winning here. But since it's at home, I feel pretty confident in predicting this a win.
Oregon (originally a win) - I originally thought Oregon was overrated and felt this would be a win. I still believe Oregon is overrated -- though maybe the second best team in the conference -- and I still feel this would be a win.
@ UCLA (originally a loss) - My logic for a loss centered around the 2006 game, but after what the team has done in their first two tough road tests, I feel confident in believing Utah would defeat the Bruins in Pasadena. Their first conference game last week was at home against Arizona and they were thoroughly dominated. Because of that, this would almost certainly be a win.
@ Oregon State (originally a loss) - The Beavers look worse than I thought before the season started and this would be a tough road game, but as I mentioned above, the Utes are looking better than expected, especially on the road. This game would be a hard fought win.
USC (originally a loss) - This would be played in Salt Lake, but I don't think Utah would win. Maybe they'd keep it closer than if the game were played on the road, but the result would be the same, a loss.
@ Stanford (originally a win) - Outside of their head-scratching victory over Oregon State to start the season, Stanford hasn't done much. Which is why I continue to believe this would be a win.
Arizona (originally a win) - The Wildcats are better this season than in the past, but still not very good. They lost at New Mexico and the Lobos might have their worst team since the Mountain West was formed. That means the Utes would easily win.
@ Arizona State (originally a loss) - This is probably the only toss-up game Utah would face on their schedule. The Sun Devils are a good team and if the game were in Salt Lake, I'd say a sure win, but in Tempe? That's tough to predict. It would be close, but Utah would barely win.
Washington (originally a win) - The Huskies are trash, Utah would walk to the win.
And there you have it. It's my belief Utah would finish 8-1 in conference play. If they had played the same out of conference schedule, but with UNLV instead of Oregon State (since the Beavers would be a conference foe instead), they most likely would finish the season 11-1. That would probably get them into the Rose Bowl, taking USC's place if they were to go to the national championship. Of course, if Utah somehow managed to beat the Trojans, well...
What's interesting is that the Utes will actually face tougher opponents this season in the Mountain West than they would if they were to play a season in the Pac Ten. Cal, Oregon and Arizona State are good teams and capable of knocking off the Utes, but I still think contests against TCU and BYU look far more intimidating for Utah. Who would have thought that before the season started? Not me, obviously.