There have been many highs and lows in the first four seasons of Utah Football as a member of the Pac-12 Conference., some expected, and some a pleasant surprise.
Utah may have expected things to be different entering the Pac-12. Utah seemed to be they type of team that would make fairly smooth transition in the minds of some fans, and the football team seemed to be poised to have success after season one.
The Utes were able to find a "diamond in the rough," with John White IV. After Utah lost starting quarterback Jordan Wynn to injury, White was able to put the Utes on his shoulders, and established himself as one of the best running backs Utah had ever seen. He was able to break Carl Monroe's Utah single season rushing record, and place him at the top of the Utah record books in that category. He was also able to help Utah to their first bowl victory as a Pac-12 school, and his game winning touchdown in overtime helped get him the MVP of the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech.
Another "high" for the Utes has been the number of big victories Utah has been able to get since joining the conference. Wins over teams like Michigan, Stanford, USC, and UCLA would have been dream victories for Ute fans years ago. Now the opportunity to play teams of that caliber every season has given Utah the opportunity to have victories over these type teams on a yearly basis. Also, the opportunity to play on the national stage on networks like ESPN, Fox, and the Pac-12 network, where for years Utah played on the MTN and KJZZ.
Players like Andy Phillips,Tom Hackett, Chase Dominguez, Reggie Dunn, and Kaelin Clay have made special teams special. The explosive speed of Dunn and Clay forced opponents to kick away from them. If they chose to kick them the ball, they were often punished. Andy Phillips has become one of the most clutch kickers in Utah Football history. Tom Hackett's Ray Guy award last season speaks for itself. The best punter in the country make's Kyle Whittingham's job easy, and his punts were able to help field position tremendously. Chase Dominguez is stellar merely by the fact his name is rarely mentioned. The snaps to Hackett whether holding or punting have been nearly automatic. It's expected that the ball will be long snapped perfectly every time.
Utah has also had it share of "lows." The biggest was missing out on the first Pac-12 title game in 2011. A victory over Colorado, and some help from other teams would have got them in the game. Utah got exactly what they needed to happen with the other games, but failed to beat the lowly Buffalos. Utah had a hard time moving the ball, and missed field goals lead to Colorado getting their first conference road victory in years. This game may be one that festers for a long time in the minds of Utah fans.
Two straight losses to Washington State and Washington, three straight to Arizona, and four straight to Arizona State have been hard to swallow. If a team can beat USC, UCLA, Stanford, and Cal, one would think they could win games against these teams. Utah did defeat Washington State the first season in the snow of Pulman, and Utah blew Wazzu out in Salt Lake City the following year. That last two are games Utah probably should have won. Last season watching a 21 point lead evaporate was hard to swallow. In the games against Washington, UW was a better team the only two meetings the two teams have had. Utah got the first victory at Arizona in 2011, but have really struggled in the last three match ups. The other Arizona school, Arizona State seems to have Utah's number. The Sun Devils have beat Utah in all four conference match ups.
Wazzu is off the schedule for a couple years, but Washington is back on in 2015. Utah is 0-11 versus the Huskies, and will be looking to get their first against them. The Arizona schools have got to be circled on the calendar as games they really want to win. A win over those schools would be one step closer to a successful season in 2015.
The rotating offensive coordinators have been another low for the Utes. Having a new offensive coordinator every season in the Pac-12 seems to keep the offensive from getting on track. A stellar defense has kept the Utes in games, but struggles on offense has slowed down Utah's progression. Their best offenses have seemed to come with a strong running back. This season is no different, and as Aaron Roderick steps in for the second time, his first time in the Pac-12 as offensive coordinator, he will have Devontae Booker to work with.
The team has had some high's and lows in the Pac-12. As more depth has come in, and if Utah can find an answer to the question at the offensive coordinator spot, then there should be more highs than lows.