6 games down, 6 more to go. Yet even at the halfway mark of the 2006 college football season, Utah still seems to be an enigma of sorts. While they're 4-2 (2-0 in MWC play), a game better than their record this time last year, they've only had one good win and that was last week's victory against TCU. In their two toughest games of the year, Utah was blown out by both UCLA and Boise State by a combined score of 67-13. The struggles against good competition has put a drag on Utah's above .500 record and reinforces doubts that this team can get it done.
The problem in the first half of the season eventually always comes back to the offense. The fickle play of Brett Ratliff -- whose struggles against UCLA and BSU overshadowed decent games against USU and SDSU -- has hindered Utah's offense and it seems that unless he gets things straightened out, it will play a major role in Utah's second half performance. The offensive woes may only be confined to two games, but it's a troubling trend that could cost Utah 3 or more games this season.
But while the offense has struggled, the Utes defense has played some of its best ball in recent years. While Boise State seemingly dominated Utah's defense, all but one of their scores came on a short field. Or in other words, Utah's offense coughed up the ball way too many times and Boise State capitalized on those turnovers. Once again, as I mentioned above, the struggles of this team come back to the sloppy offensive play in two of Utah's biggest games.
The good news with this however is that the Utes offense does not appear to be that bad. Brett Ratliff vastly improved against a solid TCU defense 5-days after being completing slammed against the Broncos and if the Utes can succeed in offensive production this Saturday against Wyoming, they'll probably be ready to put the UCLA and Boise State games behind them.
The first half of the season really didn't show us how good or bad this Utah team truly is. They lost on the road to a decent -- though not great -- Pacific Ten team and got slaughtered at home by a legitimate BCS contender. Then they defeated TCU, the defending Mountain West Conference champions and the team many felt would dominate its way to a BCS Bowl berth. Utah's next toughest game most likely will be against TDS in Salt Lake City and that very well could decide the conference championship if the Utes continue to improve on their offense. One thing is for sure, this season could have took a disastrous turn for the worse after the Boise State game, but the Utes righted the ship, even if for a week. Now it's on to Wyoming and a win there will make a winning season for the Utes nearly inevitable. But I don't want just a winning season, I want a conference title and I won't be happy if the Utes fail to win one.
My prediction for the second half of the season? I honestly do not have a clue, mostly because I don't have a clue about this Utah team. I've seen signs that this team can be successful, but I've also seen signs that they're not really all that good, either. If the Utes play like they did Thursday night, it'll be tough for any team to beat them and that includes their rival TDS. But it remains to be seen if the Utes have what it takes to sustain that kind of success.
If someone would have told me prior to the season the Utes would be 4-2 at this stage, I'd probably not be too disappointed, especially if I heard they were 2-0 in conference play. However it's going to take a lot for me to forget that Boise State loss and I hope the recovery continues with a dominate vitory Saturday against Wyoming.