Playing the percentage game

If you're forced to go over Utah's schedule and assign each game a percentage based on the probability, what do you think you'd come up with? It's actually an interesting topic because not every game is on equal footing. Some games are about as close as you can get to a victory, while others might be on the opposite end of that spectrum. 

But what about Utah's 2009 schedule? I do not believe there is a game the Utes can't win, but I also don't think they'll go undefeated. It just does not happen much in sports, let alone in back-to-back seasons. So when it comes down to it, the Utes will probably compete in all twelve games, but not necessarily win them all. 

However, if you break it down based on percentages, it becomes clearer what to expect from Utah's season. 

That's what I'm going to do and I'd like to see your input. If you had to break down each game in similar fashion, what would your numbers be?

Utah State

Even though things have greatly changed up in Logan, I don't see this game being much of a challenge for the Utes. Who knows, maybe Andersen will get things rolling sooner than expected, but in his first game, on the road against his team's chief rival they haven't beaten since 1997? Not likely. 

This is the type of game that's pretty much a near-win. Since nothing is a guarantee in college football and the fact there are some unknowns, I'd put the probability of Utah winning this game at 85%.

@ San Jose State

I've said before this game is a bit of a concern because it'll be Utah's first road test and for an inexperienced offense, that could be problematic. Of course, I also expect a win and the fact the Spartans aren't picked to do much in the WAC this season reinforces that thought. I just don't see the Utes losing to the projected 6th-best team in the WAC, regardless where the game is being played.

That puts Utah's game against SJSU at slightly more difficult than USU, but not quite terrifying status. Putting this game at 70% probability sounds about right. 

@ Oregon

Possibly Utah's toughest game on the schedule, since Autzen Stadium is a ridiculously hard place to play for opposing players. Oregon is supposed to contend for the Pac Ten this year and if they get out of Boise alive, most certainly will be a top-ten team by week three. 

That doesn't bode well for the Utes. Not to say they can't win, but if there is one game I feel Utah most likely will lose this season, it's this one. If this were at home, I'd be singing a different tune, however, it isn't and because of that, I give Utah a 40% probability of winning. Not too low I don't see the possibility of a victory, but not high enough to expect a victory. 

Louisville

I think Louisville is the biggest unknown on Utah's schedule because I'm just not accustom to them losing. The fact Steve Kragthorpe is in a pretty much win now situation leads me to believe they'll be a bit better than expected. But will that be enough to defeat the Utes? Probably not and I think even the most diehard Cardinal fans will concede this. 

So while I believe the potential for a loss is there, I can't agree it's likely. Which puts the probability of this game being a win at 70%. At about the same level as SJSU. Maybe I'm giving the Cardinals the benefit of the doubt based on their past success (three years removed from the best season in school history), but I think it's pretty accurate.

@ Colorado State

The Rams were a surprise team last year, somehow making a bowl game and then winning it. I actually predicted Colorado State would do better than the projections had them, however, even I didn't see a 7-6 record. 

Yet even with that established, I think they'll take a bit of a step back this season. Like Utah, they replace their quarterback and I'm not expecting them to sneak up on teams like in 2008. Of course, Louks also had his best game as a Ute against the Rams and maybe that's just a little peek into what to expect this season.

Colorado State will give Utah a test, but I expect the Utes to win and that means I give this game a victory probability of 60%. Not quite Louisville & San Jose State, but definitely not like Oregon (and as you'll see, TCU and BYU).

@ UNLV

Payback? Possibly. The Utes' last trip to Vegas turned out to be the hardest loss in program history. I'm sure they're not quite over it, even after last year's drubbing of the Rebels in Salt Lake. But this isn't the same team Utah faced in 2007 and many in the media expect UNLV to push for a bowl berth. If that's the case, this could certainly be far more difficult than fans expect.

This definitely is not a sure-win like we've seen before, but I'm still not sold enough on Mike Sanford and the Rebels to put this as a game that scares me. It could be close, but the Utes should win and I think that would put their probability of this at about 60%. About equal to what I expect for the CSU game.

Air Force

I hate playing the Falcons. They always give Utah fits and I had hoped with the change in coaches, that would end. It didn't and I don't see any reason to expect this to change. Thankfully, this game is at home and that's at least to Utah's benefit. But it's not enough to call this game a slam dunk. Unfortunately, this is the home game I can see Utah losing and that puts the probability of victory at just 55%. Not entirely bad, but still a game they could easily lose.

Wyoming

This game is going to be nuts. It's on Halloween night and will be Utah's 2nd annual blackout. Add the fact the Cowboys probably won't be much better than they were last year and you've got a contest that could easily tilt Utah's way. In fact, that's exactly what I expect and because of this, I give the Utes an 80% chance of victory. 

Basically, the only reason this isn't 90% is because I just don't know what to fully expect from the Cowboys, since they have an entirely new coaching staff.

New Mexico

Much like the Falcons, the Lobos have been a pain in Utah's side since before time itself. Maybe that changes with a new coaching staff, but based on two-decade long results, I'm not too optimistic of this happening. 

Even though the game could be close or might turn into a nasty back and forth battle, Utah has the advantage of playing at home and that should be enough. Let's put this at a 65% chance of victory.

@ TCU

This game is going to be interesting because I'm sure the Frogs haven't forgotten last year's debacle. But Utah also has won three straight against TCU, two of which came during Patterson's two best seasons ('05 and '08). Which tells me Utah matches up well with the Frogs and maybe that will once again play a role this season.

Likely, though, TCU is going to be the best team in the conference and it will take a near-perfect effort for Utah to win. I actually believe, based on past success, this is a more winnable game than Oregon, but not by much. That puts the probability at around 45%.

San Diego State

Who knows what to expect from the Aztecs. They certainly underperformed last year, so I do believe they'll be better this season. With that said, you can only be burned so many times before you eventually toss the matches and until they prove otherwise, this game just doesn't feel like a loss. A probability of 75% seems cautious enough -- since there will be changes and the chance to improve.

@ BYU

I really don't think it matters what the records are, this game generally will come down to the final few plays. That might not have been the case last year, but it seems 2004 and 2008 are more exceptions to the rule than anything else. 

If that trend holds, expect another 2007-like performance this season. That means no team will have a clear advantage and it could come down to who makes the final big play (prior to 2008, that had been BYU in two consecutive games, with Utah doing it in '05). 

That essentially puts this game as a pick 'em and that's where I have it. A probability of 50%, which means you can go either way.

Based on my numbers, if Utah wins the games I think they should win, we're looking at at least nine-wins. That puts them one rivalry victory away from ten-wins and a decent follow-up to the 2008 undefeated season. 

Of course, these numbers don't mean much, since it's all speculation. And to be honest, they don't account for injuries, growing pains, turnovers and other issues that may impact a season. 

Like two years ago when Utah lost Brian Johnson, Matt Asiata and Brent Casteel in the first two games. That certainly played a role in all three of their losses, regardless of what my probability of victory was prior to each game.

So basically, take this all with a grain of salt. But we can also pretend I know what I'm talking about.

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