With less than two weeks left until Utah opens up their season against UCLA on the road, I think it's the right time to play the expectations game. That game every fan plays prior to the season, one that mostly consists of a buoyancy unmatched by any child that's forgotten to take their ritalin. And why not, no one wants to predict their team to limp toward a dismal finish.
Last season the Utes struggled, losing three straight games early on before finally pulling it together and winning four of their final five. That ending has renewed the optimism amongst Ute fans and has created a momentum shift unmatched by possibly any Utah team in the past outside of the 2004 squad. Of course on the heels of a 12-0 season in 2004, it wasn't that difficult finding a Utah fan predicating anything less than a conference championship and a 10-win season. However there was a lingering doubt because of how much Utah really lost from that team and in the end, expectations might have been a bit too high for Utah fans.
This season things are a bit different. Utah isn't coming off a 12-0 campaign, but they do return more offensive and defensive starters. The coaching staff also returns, completely intact from last year's team. With close losses to TCU, CSU, San Diego State and New Mexico -- all winnable games -- it isn't hard to see why expectations are once again on the rise in Salt Lake City. Utah was a few plays away from going 10-2 or 11-1. I'm thinking this season there won't be nearly as many bad luck situations for the Utes.
So what are realistic expectations for this year's team? I see no reason why Utah can't win a conference championship and contend for another BCS bowl game. I think the season will be a success if the Utes win the Mountain West, beat UCLA and BYU and win their bowl game. Everything after that will pretty much be icing on the cake. Unreasonable to believe? Hardly, and with Utah's recent track record I think each goal is attainable. I think Utah wins at least ten games, finishes in the top-25 and proves to all the media that Utah football is more than Urban Meyer.