Bowl game? Media counting on Utah not making it

Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

Most preseason publications leave Utah out of their bowl picture altogether, so, are we fooling ourselves with false hope?

I've already discussed how the preseason consensus is pretty down on Utah - while most of you believe they're wrong, and that the Utes will at least have a semi-successful season (74% believe Utah will make a bowl game). But as the preseason publications continue to churn out their prognostications, it's becoming clearer all around that not only is little expected of Utah in the Pac-12, even less is expected overall.

Trying to find a reputable college football site that actually predicts the Utes will make a bowl game proved to be a rather depressing chore. I came up with one, CBS, made back in May, that has Utah playing their old conference nemesis, Air Force, in the New Mexico Bowl. But beyond that? Good luck finding another source that puts the Utes in a bowl game.

It makes sense, though, right? I mean, they didn't make a bowl game last year and the talent they return this season isn't vastly superior enough for those on the outside to expect a leap for Utah. But that doesn't change the fact that sometimes you've got to wonder if maybe the consensus is right on this one. It's so overwhelming, with little to no one out there picking the Utes as a potential sleeper team, that leaves you questioning your own perception of the program. Remember, most of us operate with blinders on and that can alter how we view the program. We're inherently optimistic because it's Utah and it's the team we cheer for no matter how good or bad. That cheering drives our optimism to the point where a monster majority of fans see the Utes making a bowl game. Of course, it's just a meaningless internet poll, but deep down, if you press fans further, do you think that number would remain at 74%? I don't really believe 3/4ths of our fan base is that confident Utah will make a bowl game.

I'm not that confident. I don't see how anyone could be after last season. Of course, I didn't ask how confident you were - I asked whether you thought they would. You said yes, but beyond that, I really don't know how committed to that answer you are or whether it's solely an extension of your love of Utah.

Who wants to predict we won't make a bowl game in 2013? What's the point of even getting excited for the season if we're conceding another losing campaign?

And yet, I can't help but go back to the national media. I get they're not the end all be all when it comes to predictions, and certainly Utah proved all their predictions wrong last year, but damn if their souring doesn't give me pause. Are they seeing something we're not ... or are we seeing something they're not?

I guess we won't officially know until the season kicks off. But it'll be interesting to follow how the rest of the media predicts the Utes' season. So far, no one seems to be in Utah's corner. That can change, though, as we progress throughout the summer.

Finally, some numbers to chew on from Phil Steele, and maybe a reason why no one is high on the Utes (or even lukewarm, for that matter):

Utah ranks 97th in combined experience heading into the season and only Cal has a worse overall ranking from the Pac-12 teams.

Utah ranks 82nd in percentage of tackles returning. Cal and UCLA are the only other Pac-12 teams rated below the Utes.

Utah ranks 96th in percentage of offensive yards returning, which puts them right in the middle of the conference as Arizona, USC, Stanford and Cal rank behind the Utes.

Finally, Utah ranks 118th in percentage of letterman returning. That is at the very bottom of the rankings list and worst in the Pac-12. Of course, you'll note that Utah was #1 in this ranking last year and it proved meaningless when all was said and done.

So, expectations are seriously limited because of the talent turnover and the fact the talent last year only won five games. The question left unanswered is if the experience-lost-to-talent-gained quota is good enough to build a winning season around. If it is, the media will look foolish in underestimating the Utes.

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