The Runnin' Utes have two things going against them entering tonight's game against the Washington St. Cougars - one, they're winless in the Pac-12 and two, they've yet to win a road game in conference ... ever. Since this team finished with no wins away from the Huntsman Center last season and are now 0-2 in Pac-12 games played outside Salt Lake City this season, Utah has not only failed to win many Pac-12 games ... they've also failed to win any away from home.
That's probably not a very good recipe for victory. But we charge ahead because there isn't much anything you can do. Fortunately, tonight, they play a team that has the exact same amount of wins - that's to say none. We can all take solace in the fact that Wazzu is beatable and therefore, there might be maybe a better than a fighting chance Utah can scrape out a victory. After all, this was the team that afforded the Runnin' Utes their first Pac-12 victory last year. So, why not again?
As Utah pushes through their season, each game becomes more and more important. 0-4 was not a desirable record to start Pac-12 play, but it'll look a helluva lot better if they can come back to SLC 2-4 and I think we'd even accept 1-5 at this point. But a loss tonight, against one of the apparent weaker teams in the conference, almost feels like it will give way to another loss Saturday to Washington, and then the potential of an 0-6 start becomes a stark reality. That would actually put them nearly two-games behind last year's team, who at least managed two wins in their first seven conference games. Already, Utah had one of their three conference wins at this point last year (as mentioned, against Wazzu), so, in that regard, we're behind last year's team.
But for morale? An 0-6 record would be about as much of a gut punch as you could get.
While I do believe Utah will pull out some Pac-12 games ... that belief becomes less and less solid the more each loss piles up. Let's be honest, we all expect more than three conference victories. That should be the expectation considering this team managed that last year with a supposed far worse team. But to get to that point where the expectation becomes at least a bit of a reality, they've got to start beating teams they're on equal footing to - you know, like USC and now Washington State.
I don't expect 'em to waltz into Seattle and win. I do expect them to position themselves for a win tonight in Pullman, though. Out of all the road games, this, and maybe Oregon State, could prove the easiest. A loss here and then what?
So, I'm not only saying Utah needs to win (eh, they needed to win at least one of their home games last week, so...), but I actually think they will win. We want progress and a better team than last year? Okay - it starts with road victories. It doesn't have to be a pretty win ... or a win against a very good team (truth be told, Utah & Wazzu's Sagarin rankings aren't that different), just a win. On the road.
Is that so much to ask?