WHY THEY WILL
This is Utah's most talented and deepest team since the 2004 squad and because of this alone, they have the tools necessary to go undefeated. Kyle Whittingham will also be entering his fourth season as head coach and it does appear he's made great strides since taking over the Utes in 2005. Utah also has a pretty favorable schedule this year, which means if they open the season with a victory over Michigan, it will position them for a solid run, much like the victory over Texas A&M did for the 2004 Utah team.
That schedule includes home games against Oregon State, TCU and BYU. The two toughest conference games will be played at Rice-Eccles Stadium, meaning if Utah does manage to beat the teams they should beat, the most imposing opponents come to their house. You can't overlook the importance of that.
The Utes will also be healthy, an issue that plagued them last year. Had Brian Johnson and Matt Asiata not gone down in the opener against Oregon State, the season could have dramatically played out differently, with Utah not only possibly winning the conference championship, but maybe even going undefeated. With a healthy Brian Johnson and Matt Asiata back -- along with Brent Casteel and an even more experienced Darrell Mack -- Utah has the weapons on offense needed to become a juggernaut. Their defense has the makings of being pretty solid too, especially the pass defense. If Utah shores up their run D, they could be a force.
WHY THEY WON'T
It seems like every year we as fans float this idea of an undefeated season around, only to watch it crumble early in the season. Since doing it in 2004, Utah has been talked up by various media outlets as a possible BCS contender in '05, '06 and even last year, though much of this talk was cooled by their perceived unfavorable schedule. Well it's no different this year, as undefeated and BCS talk has once again dominated the discussion. Of course, this time around, it all starts with "If Utah beats Michigan..." and that's the problem, the Utes probably won't beat Michigan.
I know, I know, the possibility is there, but as the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. I was floating the idea around in '06 prior to UCLA and even last year, only to get burned. So I've learned from my mistakes and believe, until I actually see it, Utah won't beat Michigan. And that right there puts them at 0-1, thus ending any chance of an undefeated season.
However, there is no denying Michigan has some issues here. The Utes can exploit the newness and inexperience the Wolverines will have with Rodriguez's new offense and if they do that, maybe, just maybe, Utah can win. If they win, though, an undefeated season is not a guarantee. I say this because Utah has yet to play great for a complete season and for an undefeated season to take place, you need to play great for all 12-games. You can argue and debate why Utah hasn't had a complete season under Whittingham, but the fact is, they haven't. And until they do, I will cast a skeptical eye.
I'd like to think Utah has a chance to go undefeated, but I'm not going to get my hopes up. This team will be good and should contend for the conference championship, however, an undefeated season may just be asking for too much.