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A way too premature look at Utah's 2008 schedule

The Utes have yet to play their spring game and are still months away from fall camp, but that shouldn't stop us from taking a more in-depth look at Utah's schedule this year. As I mentioned yesterday, I thought the schedule broke down pretty favorably for the Utes and now I'm going to explain why.

When looking at this schedule, like I've done the past two years, I think it's best to break it down by Sure Win, Probable Win, Toss-up and Should Lose. There does not appear to be any sure losses on this year's schedule.

Sure Win:

  • Weber State: This is about as close as you get to a sure win for the Utes. There is no excuse for Utah to lose to a Championship Subdivision program, even if it's coached by the man who rebuilt the Ute program and then was fired after a few mediocre seasons. This game will be of high emotions because of just that, as it marks the return of Ron McBride to Salt Lake since coaching his last game against BYU in 2002. However, that type of emotion should not carry the Wildcats to victory, especially in Salt Lake City -- even though I'm sure the players will be trying to win it for Coach Mac.
  • @ Utah State: Until the Aggies prove they can be competitive with the Utes, they are always going to be considered a Sure Win. And even though this game is in Logan, the Utes have pretty much owned them up there over the years -- last losing to USU on their home field in 1996. In fact, Utah is 13-2 in Logan over the past 30 years, a staggering statistic when you realize this was a pretty competitive rivalry once.
Probable Win:
  • UNLV: This had been listed in years past as a Sure Win, however, after last season, UNLV has proven, at least for now, you can't take them for granted. Then again, maybe that loss to the Rebels will inspire Utah to not overlook them in the future.
  • CSU: The Rams have fallen on hard times and even though they have a new coaching staff, I don't expect miracles in Steve Fairchild's first year there. Which means, since this game is at home, Utah should win and really, there is no excuse for not winning.
  • SDSU: The Aztecs looked like they had some life last season, but it didn't amount to much, as they only had a one-game improvement over 2006's squad. But San Diego State has the ability to become good, it's just no one knows when that will actually happen. In fact, it could happen this year, or next or never, but the Aztecs have the talent to really surprise a few teams. The fact this is a game on the road, sandwiched between a huge game against TCU and an even bigger game against BYU, makes it a possible trap for the Utes. If they overlook San Diego State, they may be entering the Holy War on the heels of a loss. But that does not change the fact Utah should probably win this one.
  • @ Wyoming: The Cowboys normally wouldn't be a toss-up, but the game is being played in Laramie -- a place where Utah can struggle -- and after last year's actions, I think Wyoming will be fired up for this game. On the flipside, though, I expect Utah to be just as fired up and on paper, they should easily win, but I thought the same in 2006 and we all know how that ended. The saving grace in all of this, though, is that Brian Johnson has owned the Cowboys. In his two games against them, Utah outscored Wyoming 93-13. Ouch.
  • @ Air Force: I hate playing Air Force and even though they lose a ton of talent and Utah probably will want a bit of revenge after last season's close loss, it does not make this game much easier in my eyes. The Falcons, for whatever reason, match up well with the Utes and because of that, Utah has struggled. Now while they've won 4 of the last 5, this will be a tough road game that could ultimately go either way.
  • Oregon State: Last year's game against the Beavers probably has been wiped clean from Ute fans' memories. Not only did Utah have to lose to Oregon State, they had to lose their starting quarterback and running back, as well. It was a nightmare game and now Utah has a chance to enact a bit of payback here in Salt Lake. But nothing is easy and Oregon State will be a tough test for the Utes. The good news: Utah hasn't lost to a Pac Ten team at home in 8 years.
  • @ New Mexico: Utah finally broke the first part of the Lobo curse, defeating New Mexico at home for the first time since the 2001 season. Now comes the second part, getting a win in Albuquerque -- which won't be easy, as they've only won once there in the last four tries. Thankfully, Utah will have a bye week leading into this game, so ample amount of time to plan.
  • TCU: While Utah has won two straight against the Frogs, TCU is too good of a team to ever believe this game would be anything but a toss-up. I also expect TCU to be far better than they were last year and their style of play forces any team to really work if they are going to pull out the victory. With this game being played in Salt Lake, you've got to give the Utes an edge, but it's not a big enough one to make this game a should win.
  • BYU: Ugh. Utah now has lost two straight against the Cougars and have not lost three straight to BYU since the 1990, '91 and '92 seasons -- or when Utah was last really rebuilding its football program. Which means the Utes CAN'T lose this one. They just can't...for the love of all that is holy, please win this game, Utah.
Should Lose:
  • @ Michigan: I know a lot of Ute fans feel Utah can win this game and I'm one of them, it's possible. But I don't see it as likely and I'm entering this one expecting a loss. Not that I think Utah will just roll over, in fact, I believe they'll put up a fight. But this game is way too important for Michigan, far more so than it is for Utah. Not only do they have the bitter taste of last year's defeat to Appalachian State still in their mouths, Rich Rodriguez will be looking to make a statement in the first game of his coaching career there. That does not bode well for Utah, because there is no chance of the Wolverines looking past this game, especially with lowly Miami of Ohio as their next opponent. The good news for Utah is that Michigan does lose a lot of talent and will be plugging in new players, especially on offense, who will have to learn the complicated schemes of Coach Rod's spread offense. It could take a few games for the kinks to work their way out.
Utah's schedule is far easier than it was last year. There are only a few instances where a game could trip them up (namely Air Force, Wyoming and New Mexico), however, if the Utes can get through those three road games unscathed, they should be in contention for the conference championship -- if not already wrapping it up -- by the time BYU comes to town.