Took forever, didn't it? But we're only a few hours away from the last game of the season. So, that means you better soak it all up because football ends around 9:30 tonight and won't return for a very, very long time.
Because of that, this better be a damn good game or it's going to be difficult getting through the next few months knowing how this season ended (back-to-back losses, a loss to BYU, no real good wins, blah). Luckily, the Utes have a legitimate shot at winning their ninth straight bowl game and it seems a good portion of the media is actually buying the Utes' hype this time around (which didn't happen during the Oregon/TCU/BYU games).
Whether that means anything, though, hinges on just how good the Utes play tonight. They can't struggle through long stretches like they did in all three of their losses. I believe if they are going to win, they either need to jump on Cal early or keep the game close throughout. A comeback, especially if they fall behind by two-scores, could be asking for too much.
Specifically what they need to do after the jump.
For starters, the offense has to find some consistency. They were getting things done early against BYU in their last game and then Jordan Wynn got his bell rung and wasn't the same the rest of the game. I also think play calling has to improve, as well, because it was pretty awful at times last month.
If you're going to run the wildcat, please shake things up. Put Terrance Cain in to do it because he at least poses a threat to pass. But the current makeup of it is just not getting it done.
Beyond that, though, the defense needs to keep Cal's running game in check. Utah's run defense has struggled at times this season with athletic running backs and fortunately, Jahvid Best, the more athletic back compared to Shane Vereen, is out with injury. Well I shouldn't say fortunately, but you get the point. Best is the type of player who can feast on the Utes' defense. Vereen, though, I haven't seen and I'm not sure if his style exploits their weakness.
It's also important special teams comes to play. They have played a role in every one of Utah's losses this season and if they're bad again, the Utes won't win this game. This probably concerns me more than Wynn or the defense stepping up and stopping Vereen. Because from what I've seen, Utah just is not capable of overcoming special teams deficiencies in games against good opponents. And while Cal might not be ranked, they're a pretty good team capable of beating the Utes - Best or not.
Ultimately, the Utes can't slack off here. Cal might be one of the better opponents Utah has faced in a bowl game as of late (not counting Alabama, obviously) and that means they'll need to step up with their best effort of the season. Just keeping it close might not be good enough because they've kept it close in two of three defeats and it did absolutely nothing to help them down the stretch.
But if they do keep it close, it will come down to a few plays here and there and that's where the Utes need to take advantage of each Cal mistake and try to not make any of their own. Because, in a close game, all it takes is one or two mistakes to cost you the game.
Now let's hope they go out and win this one and finish a rebuilding year with a fairly respectable 10-3 record and top-25 finish. It might not be exactly what we had hoped for, but a win here would salvage this ho-hum season.
Get it done, Utah.