Preseason magazines are hitting the stands and they're giving us an idea of where the Utes stand on the national stage. And from the looks of things, they're relevant, but teetering and I'm guessing this year will play a big role in how those national publications view Utah football.
One of the largest preseason magazines is Athlon, which will be released this month.
Athlon is regarded as one of the best preseason magazines in release, but I'm not going to take their predictions with any more regard than I would other magazines and online articles that try to predict the outcome of an unpredictable college football season. Of course that doesn't mean they're always wrong, but sometimes they're only right because the pick is so obvious that it would take a mental midget to not get it.
So with all that said, Athlon has Utah finishing 3rd in the Mountain West, behind TCU and BYU. Not bad, that's exactly where they finished last year. However Utah returns a ton of more talent than the Cougars and with BYU replacing a quarterback and a horde of other offensive weapons, it does show that Utah's image within the mind of the national media is slipping. Which while it looks poorly on the program, it also looks poorly on these preseason publications because it shows they base most of their predictions on last year's results.
Basing those predictions on what happened last year is a logically safe way of doing things, but that doesn't mean it's correct. TCU is picked to finish first because they aren't going to have a dearth of talent and have pretty much dominated the past few years (outside of when they went 5-6 in 2004). I understand that and really have no gripes about that. However then there's BYU, a team that's success came because they had a ton of seniors at key positions. And while what they did last year was impressive, to expect them to continue rolling with essentially a new roster on the offensive end is asking a bit much, in my mind. I think they'll win games, but I don't know if they're going to be able to get through the conference with a record worthy of second place. Especially if Utah finishes with the record worthy of their talent. But it remains to be seen if Kyle Whittingham can get this team to perform at the level of their talent. If he can, Utah will be good and should not finish 3rd. If he can't, then Athlon is probably correct and the Utes won't be better than their preseason ranking.
With all that said, and there was a lot, looking at Athlon's past, it's probably a good omen for Utah that they're ranked 3rd, because there's a good chance Athlon is not going to get Utah's ranking right. Which means we still have a chance at #1. Or, like last year and the year before that, we can be worse. Yikes. To get a better understanding of how correct Athlon has been with Utah's predictions in the past, I thought I would take a look at them and compare their predicted finish with where Utah really finished over the past few years.
We'll start with 1999, since that was the first season the Mountain West Conference played.
|Year||Predicted finish||Actual finish|
Athlon has been correct at predicting Utah's finish twice and 2004 really wasn't that difficult to predict, since Utah had ran through the conference the season prior and returned most of their starters. In 2005 Athlon actually went against the grain and picked Utah to not only finish out of first (New Mexico was predicted first), but finish behind a 2nd place Colorado State. Of course while they were correct in their Utah prediction, both the Lobos and Rams finished tied with Utah for 3rd. Much of these predictions were made when Utah football had split personalities. That was in the twilight of Coach McBride's career, where the Utes would falter as favorites (2000, 2002) and then relish in the role of being overlooked. That up and down ride ultimately cost McBride his job and laid the groundwork for Urban Meyer and the great 2004 season. Even with that said, they're more wrong than right and that tells me they're probably going to be wrong again this time around. That's either good or bad, depending on which side of the 3rd place prediction Utah finish on.
I'll have a look at other preseason publications as they're released. I know that Lindy has Utah finishing 3rd, behind TCU and BYU and I think Phil Steele has Utah 3rd too, again behind TCU and BYU. It's good to point out however that both Steele and Lindy had Utah finishing first last year and we know how that prediction ended.