Utah is one game away from completing the first half of the 2007 season. And unless something miraculously happens Friday, I think we can all agree the first half has been an utter failure. Now the Utes can hope for better fortunes during their final six games and maybe find a way to salvage a season quickly stumbling into the abyss. Looking at the upcoming schedule, that will not be easy, as the Utes play four of their next seven games on the road. That includes tough stops at Louisville, Fort Worth, Fort Collins and Provo. Yikes.
This Friday Utah plays a Louisville team that, like the Utes, have been unable to live up to preseason expectations. And while I've exhausted the term big game over the past 5 weeks, I think this is a fairly significant one for Utah. A victory could go along way toward making this season somewhat respectable, while a loss will make it that much harder to climb the ladder of mediocrity. A win, however, looks rather unfeasible at this point. Who knows though, I thought the same about UCLA and God knows Louisville is playing far worse than the Bruins were heading into their game against Utah last month.
Looking beyond the Louisville game, I don't see many victories for this Utah team. I hope I'm wrong, but based on past performances, it just doesn't seem likely. But that doesn't mean it won't happen and with the way Utah's schedule is set, a few big wins over the next few weeks could rapidly change the season's outlook and position Utah for a great run to end the year. Not something I would bet on, but that won't stop me from hoping it happens.
Revising my preseason expectations, which I had Utah going 8-4 and winning the Mountain West, this is how I see the rest of the season playing out.
Though I would love for Utah to defeat the Cardinals in their first regular season appearance on ESPN since the 2005 season, I just don't see how it happens. The Cardinals have struggled, but Utah hasn't shown me that they are any better. Louisville's offense is still very potent and the Utes' offense has shown no signs of being consistent enough to keep up with that of Louisville. I expect a tight game early, with the Cardinals blowing it open in the second half. Utah limps home with a 2-4 record after a 42-28 loss.
San Diego State
The last time San Diego State played the Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium, they won. It was an ugly game and marked the lowest point of Whittingham's inaugural season with Utah. Even with Utah playing as poorly as they currently are, I don't see that repeating this year. The Aztecs are not a good team and Utah should do fairly well against their offense. I expect a rather low scoring game, with Utah ending up with a 28-14 win.
This will be a tough game, yet the Frogs have not really been the force many thought they would be. They got walloped by Texas and then lost to Air Force. Their other wins have been less impressive and it's possible Utah sneaks into Fort Worth and comes out with a win. But I don't see that happening, not on the road. TCU's defense should really work Utah's fickle offense, which will be enough for the 17-24 loss.
Historically Utah has not done well in Fort Collins. But then again, these aren't the historically tough Rams we've come to know. CSU has yet to win a game this season and is most likely on their way to another losing campaign. Utah should win this game, but based on the past, I don't feel confident enough to say they will. While this is a swing game, I expect a 24-31 loss.
The Cowboys are having a great season, but they typically don't play well on the road and haven't played Utah well on the road in a long time. The last time Utah played them in Salt Lake, the Utes handed them their worst loss of the season and while I don't expect that type of dominance, I do believe the Utes come away with a 35-21 win.
New Mexico owns the Utes and until Utah can prove they're capable of beating New Mexico under Whittingham, I won't predict a win. The game will be close, as they normally are, but the Utes will make a key turnover on their way to a 28-31 loss.
I hate to say this, but I don't think Utah beats BYU this year. I know, blasphemous, but all things considered, can anyone realistically predict a win over BYU? I think, like last year, it will be a very competitive game that could come down to the final play. Maybe Utah gets a break this time around and celebrates on their field, but common sense tells me it will be Utah leaving Provo with a 24-21 loss.
That gives Utah a 4-8 final record, not good enough for a bowl game. Agree, disagree, let me know and hopefully I'm wrong on this one (which wouldn't be the first, or the last).