Utah has yet to build on any win this season, mostly following up some big wins with some ugly losses. After their opening season loss to UCLA, the Utes did go on a 3 game winning streak, but clearly were beating weak opponents. When faced with their toughest test, they wilted in a big loss to Boise State, yet bounced back to beat TCU at home. Though after that, Utah dropped two straight to Wyoming and New Mexico, building zero momentum off their victory against TCU, the Mountain West Champion last season.
With Utah entering the final weeks of the season, I think the Utes will need to win out to salvage this season. I don't expect that to happen, but it has to start with building on their win against UNLV. If the Utes fail to do this and drop a game in two weeks to Colorado State, they're done. Last season Whittingham did a great job at rallying his troops to finish the year with 4 wins in their final 5 games. If the Utes end the year winning 3 straight and get into a bowl game, I'll feel a bit better about the future. However with their inability to bounce back in the past, I question whether that is at all possible.
Currently the Utes are realistically looking at a 6-6 finish, with a good possibility of ending the season below .500 if they get into a bowl game (6-7). That is unacceptable, but the poor reality facing this Utah team. This concerns me because I think it could set a troubling trend of losing and it's very difficult for a coach to turn things around once he starts losing. It snowballs out of control and often times a change is needed. This is what happened with Ron McBride in his final seasons, as once the losing started, McBride had the impossible task of righting the ship. It took someone new to come in and liven up the program, Urban Meyer did that. A good coach can lose control of his team and that could eventually unravel any chance of success. Right now, I see that happening with Whittingham and if the Utes fail to build on their UNLV win, I don't expect them to bounce back next year.
But if Utah can get a decisive victory over Colorado State and follow that up with a win on the road against Air Force, things could turn around. It's important to enter the BYU game with momentum and Utah should defeat both Colorado State and Air Force. However that doesn't necessarily mean they will, especially with their recent problems. The key for the Utes is that they need to build confidence. In every loss this season, Utah gave up at a certain point in the game once they got down. That can't continue, so they will need to strike first against Colorado State and Air Force. If the Utes can build big first half leads, they could coast to two straight wins. However that isn't a given, as the Utes also blew a 24-3 lead against New Mexico last Thursday. It's important that they reclaim some confidence and turn that confidence into solid play. If they do that, I honestly think they could win all three games left on their schedule. Of course that's asking a lot, because they've not shown this season they have what it takes to recapture confidence after a bad play or when they find themselves down early in the game.