Yes they're not the chosen team, yes they have yet to prove under Whittingham they're capable of winning the conference and yes, BYU hasn't lost a conference game since their overtime defeat to Utah at the end of the 2005 season, but all that ends this season.
Utah will win the conference. Ok, it's a not-so-bold prediction, since even though Utah isn't favored, many believe they will contend. However, if there is any year for the Utes to win it, 2008 is that year. Why? Well let's look at the biggest reasons that favor Utah.
Utah returns much of its offense from the 2007 season, Brian Johnson just might make it through the year fully healthy and things are looking solid on defense. This is, without a doubt, the most talented team Kyle Whittingham has had at Utah and barring injuries, there really is no excuse for not winning the championship. The fact is, no team is head and shoulders above Utah, which means when it comes down to it, coaching success could dictate whether it's Utah hoisting the Mountain West trophy at the end of the season or another school.
Outside of Utah, there are three legitimate conference contenders: BYU, TCU and New Mexico, in that order. The Utes play two (BYU and TCU) of them at home. Now by no means does this mean they're guaranteed success, since the same argument was made prior to the 2006 season, however, their path to the championship is far more easier than a team like BYU, who has to play both Utah and TCU on the road.
The Utes, though, could have a wrench thrown into their championship season by a trip to Albuquerque, a true house of nightmares for Utah over the past decade. If they can get through that game unscathed, the Mountain West title very well could be inches from their fingers and they most certainly will be playing for it on November 22nd against BYU. Well that is if they don't screw up somewhere along the way and lose to a team they have no business losing to.
C'mon, how many close games can you lose in a row to your bitter rival? I'll make a prediction right here, if Utah loses, it will not happen in the closing seconds. That's just unthinkable and unconscionable! It's outrageous, egregious, preposterous. It won't happen.
Jackie Chiles agrees, Utah ain't losin' to BYU in such devastating fashion
So the likelihood of a blowout loss for Utah, at home, is not very probable, with Utah last losing big at home in 1996 against BYU. That means you can, yes, expect a win. Some pretty thin logic, I know, but hey, it works for this argument.
If that happens, Utah will win the Mountain West.
Take it to the bank.