What to look for against USU

So much has changed since Utah left the Louisiana Superdome with an impressive 31-17 victory over Alabama. Much of that change hasn't been good. It never is when you need to replace talent and coaches after a successful season. Yet Utah endures.

That change means the Utes will enter the 2009 season as an unknown, especially on offense. Of course, this creates intrigue and certainly all the focus when Utah takes the field against Utah State will be on the offensive side and adjustments seen since January.

Yet even that will come with a skeptical eye because they're only going up against the Aggies and we probably won't get a true grasp of how good the Utes are based solely on this game. But that doesn't mean we can't get an idea of how bad Utah might be. If they struggle to score and have a difficult time pulling away for the win, it might suggest there will be extreme growing pains this season. So what should we look for in terms of a benchmark? What would you deem successful against USU? 

Me? Well...

 

  • Game in hand entering the fourth quarter. I don't see any reason why the Aggies should be pushing Utah, in Salt Lake City, well into the final quarter of the game. This is still the same team that lost up in Logan 58-10 and while they have seen some dramatic changes, it shouldn't erase the gap between the programs that fast. If it has, it's more a prelude to Utah's struggles than USU's success - at least that's how I see it.
  • The Utes' offense should at least put up some respectable numbers. In the 2nd game of the 2005 season, Utah hosted the Aggies and won 31-7. That was only Kyle Whittingham's second game as the Utes' head coach and while Utah didn't dominate the Aggies, they had impressive offensive stats:
    • 510 yards of total offense
    • Brian Johnson was 18/21 for 268 yards and 2 touchdowns
    • Quinton Ganther rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown
    • Utah outscored the Aggies 31-0 after USU went up 7-0 at the start of the game
  • There shouldn't be glaring mistakes in terms of quarterback play. That means I hope to not see Wynn throw three interceptions in a span of three quarters, only to get pulled in favor of Cain. If that happens, things could get very interesting - and not in a good way.
I'm sure there are more and I'll leave that up to you. But I think we'll be able to start formulating an idea when it comes to Utah's potential success based on this game. Maybe a blowout won't tell us much, but if they do struggle, it could point to some potential hurdles down the road.
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