There is no doubt Utah's upcoming football schedule is daunting. In fact it may very well be the toughest in school history, yet I don't think these boys are ready to back down and allow any team to walk all over them. With that said, you'd have to be an idiot to expect Utah to just roll through the schedule without any problems. They're just not that good, and that isn't a bad thing. Because truly, only a great team could get through a schedule like this unscathed and I don't think the Utes are close to being great...at least yet anyway.
So which team poses the biggest challenge to Utah? Is it Oregon State, fresh off a 10-win season and a probable ranking in the top-25 at the start of this year? Or will it be UCLA, coming off a mediocre 7-6 season that was far below expectations? How about Louisville, a team many feel could compete for the national championship? Of course it could be TCU, the most impressive and consistently good program in the conference.
Realistically, I don't know if you can pick which team will be the toughest for Utah, because you can make the case for every one of them. Oregon State will be the opener, which is always a challenge and it doesn't help that the game will be on the road. UCLA is a team that has the talent to be really good, especially since they return so much from last year. I don't really need to explain why Louisville will be tough, since they could be a top-10 team. And TCU, well, they're TCU and that game, like Oregon State, will be on the road.
If I had to choose however, I think I would go with Louisville, because that game just seems too imposing for the Utes. Though Steve Kragthorpe is replacing Bobby Petrino, they're loaded and should contend for the Big East championship. In fact, anything less than 10 wins would probably be seen as a disappointment to Cardinal fans. And on paper, I wouldn't really disagree, because they are stacked and return a lot of offensive power, especially with quarterback Brian Brohm returning.
I also pick Louisville because other teams do look more beatable. I think Oregon State will be a very difficult game for Utah, but it is winnable. I'm not completely sold on the Beavers and they lose a ton of talent and have to replace their quarterback, which could cause some growing pains. UCLA had a horrible year last season when you consider the hype they had going into the season. That game is also played in Salt Lake City and I think Utah has a good chance at surprising the Bruins for the win. TCU, probably the toughest conference game for Utah, will not be a blowout. I just don't see them demolishing Utah and I say this because two years ago Utah went down to Fort Worth and nearly knocked off the Frogs. It took an OT for them to win and of course they finished the season winning the rest of their games, Utah however did not. That was a team riddled with growing pains and coaching ineptitude, but I think they've grown since then. Which was shown in their dominate 20-7 victory over TCU last year in Salt Lake City. Will they win? I don't know and wouldn't be surprised if they didn't, but I would bet they position themselves quite well.
Looking at the schedule, it doesn't take a genius to realize Louisville will be the toughest game for Utah. Now that doesn't mean Utah can't win and that they'll win every other game on their schedule, but I think their best shot at a loss will be against the Cardinals. With that said, I wouldn't completely count Utah out and I wouldn't completely count out TCU, Oregon State and UCLA when it comes to beating Utah.
One thing is clear however, we'll see how good this coaching staff really is. Because if they can get this Utah team to 8 or more wins, good things could be instore for the future.