Certainly we have our doubts about whether these Utes are built for another great season. Unfortunately, we probably won't have an idea whether that's the case until week three (though we could know if it isn't the case). Which means these questions surrounding Utah will be mostly left unanswered for a bit.
With that said, it's possible to get an idea of the answers sooner rather than later and as we enter the 2009 season, I'm hoping this is the case. Because I definitely don't want enter the Oregon game essentially wondering where the season is going. Though I guess it's possible Utah sits at 0-2 prior to their game with the Ducks and then we'd most assuredly know in that case. But that's unlikey. Or so I hope.
So what are the biggest questions for these Utes and can we expect at least a half-answer by Thursday night?
- Quarterback play. The Utes won't have a starter named until the game, which means right now, a lot is unknown. Of course, that isn't a bad thing. From all reports, Terrance Cain has performed fairly well and though Jordan Wynn went from hyped starter to probable backup, he's still steady enough in practice to keep Cain grounded a bit.
- Offensive changes. A new quarterback is only half the issues the Utes will be dealing with on offense. They also have an inexperienced play caller in Dave Schramm - which could create more kinks. If Schramm does take a bit to adjust to his new role, expect the play calling to be rather average in the first couple of games. Hopefully, they hit their stride by week three.
- Defensive changes. This transition should be easier, though Utah still has to replace Sean Smith and Paul Kruger. Both losses will hurt, but the biggest concern might be with replacing Gary Andersen. Like Schramm, Kalani Sitake has never been a coordinator and there might be a learning curve. Though Whittingham's defensive background should ease potential issues.
- Hype. How does Utah handle their newly found celebrity? Yeah, they're not the it team right now (BSU seems to be), but all eyes will still be on them as they try to follow up the 13-0 campaign. As 2005 showed, the fall can be hard when everyone - especially in conference play - is gunning for you. The bottom line - Utah will be the biggest game on each team's schedule outside Oregon and maybe Louisville. Can they handle that?
- Consistency. One thing that can hurt an inexperienced team is their lack of consistency. I don't think this will be much of a problem Thursday, but it could be an issue next Saturday. How does this tie into the USU game? Well if the Utes can come out and slam the door on the Aggies early, it might show they're capable of not playing down to their opponent. If that's the case, I think we'll all feel a bit more confident heading into week two. If they struggle - even through a win - there could be some doubts.