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Utah's keys to victory

It'll be tough, but it isn't an improbable task for the Utes. A victory would save a weak season, put the Utes in position to win 9 games and give them their fifth straight win over TDS. But if Utah is going to do this, it'll take a lot and a near perfect game from Ratliff and the Utes' offense. The good news? I think the odds are better that the Utes win this week than they were prior to last year's Holy War -- a game Utah won in OT. The bad news? In all but one loss this season, Ratliff has struggled. Can it be done? Will it be done? And if so, how the hell with the Utes do it?  These are the keys to victory.

  1. Ratliff needs to step up. If he plays like he did against UCLA, BSU and Wyoming, the Utes will get crushed. It's not that hard to understand, as Utah's success follows the ability of their quarterback. If Ratliff can connect on more than 57% of his passes and have zero interceptions, Utah will have a good shot to win. Anything less, and it will be very difficult.
  2. Find a running game. Utah's had a very fickle running game this season, but last week against Air Force it took a surprise turn. Weddle, normally known for his defense, stepped up and led the Utes in rushing yards (73 yards). If Utah can get that same performance from Weddle this week, along side a big game by Ratliff, their offense should keep pace with BYU.
  3. Defensive secondary needs to play well. John Beck has been pretty damn good this season and if Utah's secondary continues to struggle, he'll carve them up like a turkey on Thanksgiving. Utah's secondary needs to play lights out and not give up big plays, but they'll need a lot of help from their defensive line as well.
  4. Utah needs to pressure Beck. Rattle him early, force him into an early interception and Beck, who's been known for buckling in big games, could be taken out of his comfort zone. That's where the Utes can capitalize and change the outcome of the game.
  5. Don't get down early. Utah has only won once this season after giving up the first score of the game. They're also 6-0 after scoring first, which means the Utes will need to set the tempo early. If they get down 7-0, it'll be difficult to claw back into and anything more than that will probably mean a loss. The longer Utah stays with TDS, the better chance they have of pulling off the upset.