Greetings again fellow Ute fans. In this part of my season preview, I'm gonna focus more on The 2009 season schedule and my take on the year game by game.
As far as the Strength of schedule goes (SOS) , I believe this year could either be a great success or a huge letdown from last year. As I stated before in part 1, much of Utah success will depend how well the new quarterback develops in his role.
BEST CASE SCENARIO:
(plug your ears Coach Whit)
Utah will take advantage of the first two games to break in Louks and get him comfy with the offense, then go and defeat Oregon in a surprise blowout. they will come back and beat a Louisville team still trying to find their groove. After defeating Louisville the Utes will use the energy from the win on the road against Colorado St. and U.N.L.V., come back home for a crucial game against Air Force at home (winning in a thriller) and then keeping their home streak alive against Wyoming and New Mexico. The Utes then will travel to Ft. Worth for the biggest test of the season against TCU and will win another thriller (possibly in OT) after which the Utes will return home to take care of business against San Diego St. and then prepare for the Holy War showdown in Provo (which they win a heart breaker in the last quarter). using the combination of their pre-season ranking and the bad luck of higher ranked opponents, the Utes will barley squeeze their way into the NT game.
WORST CASE SCENARIO-
Even with one of the better O-lines in the conference, Louks will struggle in his new role and the Utes have problems will injuries and find their way to a smaller tier bowl. (I could say 0-12 would be the worst case, but I think the Utes have enough talent to avoid it). Oh, and losing to BYU in the final seconds again.
WEEK 1: Utah St.
The return of former DC. Gary Anderson will make this annual contest more interesting, It would be very easy to write a W on this game now but Utah should not underestimate a new team. I see Utah opening the playbook so to speak and using this game as a launching pad for Corbin Louks to get him familiar with his new starting role.
The Utes win if- They maintain their focus and not get too cocky from last years success. The Utes lose if- Gary Anderson has a few tricks up his sleeve and throws Louks out of his rhythm
My Pick- Utah wins by a comfortable margin 31-14
WEEK 2: At San Jose St.
This game is a question mark but as not as much as some of the later games in the schedule. The Spartans are one of the stronger teams in the WAC but haven't been able to really establish themselves as legitimate threats in the WAC lately. Like Utah St., this game is another great opportunity for the Utes to establish their groove offensively and hopefully build up some momentum for the crucial game in Oregon the next week.
Utah wins if... Again, if they take the one game at a time approach and remember who they are and play their offensive game well
Utah loses if.... barring any catastrophic injuries or if The Spartans show some surprises, I have a hard time seeing the Utes drop this game.
My Pick: Utah wins a comfortable game again
WEEK 3 At Oregon
This game is one of the biggest games of the season, The Utes are very likely to be 2-0 at this point and this game could make or break the season. Even though the Ducks have a new coach, they could still be a force to be reckoned with (which could depend how their opener against Boise St. fares). Oregon runs with a lot of speed on a ground but also (like Utah) can come out of nowhere to win the big games on their schedule. If Utah can put pressure on the Ducks running game like they did with Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, It could be a long day for the Ducks.
Utah wins if... They can stuff the run (Oregon's bread and butter) and throw them off their grove, The Utes will also have to maintain focus on the road (Oregon isn't one of the friendliest places to play).They also need to get into the backfield early to throw off Oregon's passing game and make them one dimensional
Utah losses if....They can't stop the run or if Oregon find's an offensive grove in the air. Utah could also be in big trouble if the Ducks feed of the home crowd and control the momentum.
My Pick- I see a close game playing out here and the Utes winning a thriller in their first test of the season.
WEEK 4 vs Louisville
This game is another question mark because we don't really know which Louisville team will show up, I believe Louisville is one of the dark horse teams in their conference.and could either have a great year or have another disappointing season (and if so would most likely be the end of Steve Kragthorpe's tenure). If the Cardinals can tone down their turnovers and get consistent play at QB, this team has the potential to make some noise. From Utah's perspective this could also be a key game depending how well the Utes fare against Oregon, if the Utes come home with a loss they will need to get back on track against Louisville to prepare them for the road trip ahead.
Utah wins if.....They can force turnovers against the cardinals and not let them find their offensive rhythm, Louisville also has a history of being very pass friendly, thus the Utes secondary will have to stay focused and not let Louisville beat them in the air.
Utah losses if..... Louisville finds their game in the air and frustrates Utah ability to control the football. Loisville is also getting better defensively and depending on the games momentum could use that to their advantage
My pick: If the Utes can score quickly and put this game away early, I could picture a blowout, Louisville just has too many questions this year. Utah wins this one
WEEK 5: At Colorado St.
After an early BYE week (early in my standards at least ) the Utes will travel to Ft Collins to take on the Rams. Colorado St. is on the rise in the MWC (in my opinion) and could present some problems to the Utes (let us not forget their goal line stand win a few years ago). The Rams also have a dangerous WR duo and a talented O-line returning. The key will be The Rams QB situation.
Utah wins if.....They keep tabs on the Rams receivers and put lot's of pressure on the QB, Colorado St. also suffered in punt returns and Kick returns last year, If this is the case again David Reed and Luke Matthews could have a really great day.
Utah losses if......The Utes have trouble covering the Ram's WR's and if Colorado continues the great play at RB they had last year. The only way though that Colorado St. has a chance is if they can get consistent play from their new quarterback.
My Pick: due to the questions at QB and the fact Colorado St. has problems at defense I see a Utah victory here
WEEK 6 at U.N.L.V
This is a crucial year for former Utah OC Mike Sanford, If he has any prayer of saving his job THIS is the year to do it. although they lose their prized RB, the rebels still have a strong leader in their starting QB. let us not forget what happened the last time Utah visited Las Vegas.
Utah wins if.....they can pressure Jr. QB Omar Clayton and take advantage of the Rebels weak secondary,and score points quickly Frank Summers is gone, but U.N.L.V could still give the Utes plenty of headaches.
Utah losses if....The Rebels find a new play maker similar to Summers that will step up and shock the Utes, utah could also be in for a long day if Clayton finds his grove and utah fails to pressure him
My pick: U.N.L.V has a good QB but their defense still has too many holes in my opinion. Utah wins by two touchdowns
WEEK 7 vs Air Force
Air force has long been a thorn in the Utes side, just look at the playing history in the past 10 meetings and you'll find most of them have come down to the wire. The Falcons bread and butter is their ground game, and the Utes will have the task of slowing it down once again (which they admittedly did a good job in doing last year). Utah though will have the extra benefit of playing this one at home
Utah wins if.....they duplicate last years defensive effort and force the Air Force to go to the air (no pun intended). They also need to score quickly and not let Air force find success in the air as they did in last years meeting. The Utes also need to take advantage of the three game home stretch and build as much momentum as they can.
Utah loses if.....They cannot keep on top of the rushing attack this year and/or if Air force gets quality play from their QB, The Utes could also be in trouble if the game does come down to the wire (no Louie Sakoda to bail them out)
My pick - This is one of three games I believe the Utes could lose as much as I think they could win it.This one's a toss up for me.
WEEK 8 vs Wyoming
Wyoming faces the daunting task of starting over after firing Joe Glenn last year, the quarterback situation is a mess and the schedule is grim at best (TCU,BYU, Utah and Texas). The fact that this is a road game for the Cowboys will also hurt them. I'm not gonna lie folks, this one could be ugly.
Utah Wins if.....They step on the Cowboys throat early and dash any slim chances of a upset, However the Utes cannot afford to overlook anybody,feeding off the home crowd will also help tremendously.
Utah loses if......All the stars align for Wyoming and if Utah has the worst luck possible.
My pick- teams with new coaches can sometimes surprise you but new coach Dave Christensen has his work cut out for him. I can easily see this game being a bloodbath. Utah wins
WEEK 9 vs New Mexico
The Lobo's have also been a long thorn in the Utes side, but they are one of three teams in the MWC that have a first year coaches (along with SDSU and Wyoming) . Out of the three teams, I see New Mexico having the most success. Former coach Rocky Long's 3-3-5 formation is gone but New Mexico should still make some noise. This game in my opinion is a potential trap game due to the hard schedule coming afterward.
Utah wins if..... New Mexico's personnel have trouble adjusting to the new 4-3 defense. the Utes also need to feed off the crowd and get some momentum for next week. Utah must also stuff New Mexico's rushing game and frustrate the Lobo's new spread attack offense
Utah loses if..... the Utes find themselves looking ahead to the TCU game and overlook the Lobo's, they could also be in trouble if New Mexico find a groove in the spread and takes advantage of their senior QB.
My Pick- This game is a must -win situation cause the Utes will need all the momentum they can get when they travel to Fort Worth to face TCU. Utah wins a close one
WEEK 10 at TCU
It could easily be argued that this game could be the biggest game of the season. For the second year in a row, both teams could potentially be undefeated but the fact that this game is gonna be on TCU's turf will be the difference between night and day. Utah got a LOT of lucky breaks in last years meeting (they trailed most the game and TCU missed two field goals) do not expect that to happen again. TCU loses some faces on defense but with a coach like Gary Patterson , I don't think the Horned frogs will miss a beat. The development of Corbin Louks (provided he is the starter) will be key as well cause TCU's defense is a huge test for any QB.
Utah wins if.....Corbin Louks finds some holes in the defense and finds a way to strike early in the game. Because Utah and TCU are both great defensively, every possession will count. The Utes will also need great play from their own defense to keep QB Andy Dalton in check and find some success in special teams should the game be a close one.
Utah loses if.....TCU's defense is too much for Utah young QB and can't keep TCU's quick play makers on defense out of the backfield. Utah must also keep in mind Fort Worth is a very intimidating place to play , thus they can't let the crowd throw off their groove.
My pick- This game will not be shootout, it will be a battle of wills and whoever wants it more will win it. This ones another toss up.
WEEK 11- vs San Diego State
After a huge game on the road, the Utes will return home and have a chance to possibly get more momentum before their season closer. San Diego St. comes into this season with a new coach and a new defensive scheme (former New Mexico coach Rocky Long brings his unique 3-3-5 defense to San Diego St.).but has a lot of trouble scoring points and stopping anyone on defense.
Utah wins if....They don't look forward to the BYU match-up and look past the Aztecs, Utah needs to just play their game and take advantage of a rebuilding Aztec team that has lots of holes. this is also the last home game for Utah, thus the Utes need to put on a show
Utah loses if... They do lose focus, or if new coach Brady Hoke continues to have success after his departure from Ball St.
My pick- just like last year, I love the fact we're playing the Aztecs before the crucial game against BYU. I see the Utes pounding San Diego in a blow out.
WEEK 12 at BYU
Weather the Utes are 11-0 or 0-11, this game is always a crucial game for the Utes, it is not out of the question to assume that this contest could not only determine who gets bragging rights but also who will win the conference. BYU QB Max Hall has a lot of questions to answer after poor performances last year but depending on how well the Cougars season goes, hall could have revenge on his mind after being humiliated in Salt Lake. Because the match-up is a long ways out there it is impossible to predict how well the two teams will face leading up to November 28. BYU will not have Austin Collie this time around and that could make a big difference depending how well the Coug's adapt their offense to his departure.
Utah wins if..... They can continue to take advantage of their speed on defense and get some good play from their QB and their rushing game. The Utes must also not get too caught up in the emotions of the game (especially since their playing in Provo). The defense must also harass Max Hall and prove to everyone that last year wasn't a fluke. But above all, the Utes must show up to play in the fourth quarter if this game does get decided in the last seconds.
Utah loses if.....Max Hall turns into Steve Young and punishes the Utes for last year, the Utes could also be in huge trouble if RB Harvey Unga runs all over them like he usually does and they must NOT play a prevent defense should the game be decided by one play.
My pick- A lot could happen in five months time, several of the names mentioned could be out for the year, and emotions could run even higher depending where each team's win-loss record is. on paper I see the Utes winning a thriller in Provo.
Well that's all folks, Here's hoping Utah has a great year. GO UTES!