As the Utes enter conference play, have expectations really changed much since the beginning of the season? I think most of us would take a 3-1 start, knowing that it probably meant they lost in Eugene against the Ducks. With how Oregon has looked post-Utah, that loss doesn't seem all that bad now. In fact, the way the Utes played suggests they might be better than we gave them credit for shortly after that loss.
But does this mean they're capable of running the table and finishing 11-1? I think it's possible. Obviously these next few games, especially road contests against the Rams and Rebels, will decide the direction Utah takes before their big showdown with TCU. But since that hasn't happened yet, we don't know quite what to expect. Will Utah enter that game at 8-1, ranked in the top-fifteen (maybe even pushing the top-ten) and potentially playing for the conference championship? I think it's probable. Probable because none of the teams between now and that game in Fort Worth strike fear into my heart. They are beatable. They should be defeated. Now while that doesn't mean Utah will win them all, it does mean they should win them all.
Should because you'll find that they'll be favored in every game from now until Nov. 14th. That's a good position to be in and it means they have a good chance of rattling off a decent winning streak (that'd be six if you're counting), which ultimately would give them momentum prior to TCU. And they'll need it.
Which brings us to the all important question: can the Utes take care of business against lesser opponents? Prior to 2008, that had been a problem for Whittingham and though that hasn't been an issue this year, a loss Saturday would certainly fit that trend.
My hope is that these guys are finally over those struggles. But we'll see.