Over at ESPN, they've been running a group of polls for every conference (and the non-BCS overall) asking a whole host of questions.
One of the questions asked was what Pac-12 team would surprise the most in 2011. Utah ran away with the voting, scoring an impressive 33% in the five-team race. Washington State, at 19%, is a distant 2nd choice to the Utes.
So a great deal of fans from all over the college football landscape (as I doubt only Pac-12 fans voted in this poll) believe Utah will surprise in 2011.
Now the question I have is what exactly constitutes being the surprise team of 2011? We already know the Utes will enter this season as one of the favorites to win the Pac-12 South, so it's not like expectations have been lowered by a great deal of people.
If they're the consensus 2nd place pick behind Arizona State, I guess just getting to the conference championship in December would be a surprise.
But the results are definitive. 33% is a lot when you're going up against four other options. That means these fans either expect Utah to exceed those expectations and realistically maneuver themselves for a Pac-12 title, or they just assume the program is poised for five or six wins and think they can bump that up by two or three.
I don't know. Maybe I'm over analyzing these results (I tend to do that a lot, as you're probably all well aware). We'll see.
Beyond just that voting, Utah was picked third in the biggest disappointment poll, which just shows how divisive opinions are toward the Utes.
As for who would win the Pac-12 title, Oregon was the resounding favorite, with Stanford and SC the distant third and fourth choices. Utah comes in at 6% - just ahead of Arizona State at 4%. Which takes us back to the original question and what fans actually expect out of Utah.
My take is that most fans probably think the Utes will win the Pac-12 South (or at least will do so if SC's sanctions aren't overturned) and then promptly lose to Oregon in the conference championship.
Is that your expectation heading into the season?