In second part of this two part article series (part one here), we will now take a look at the three reasons why the Utah Utes will not win the Pac-12 South in 2018. While Utah, along the USC Trojans, and the Arizona Wildcats are the three favorites to win the Pac-12 South, there are some reasons to believe Utah will remain the only team to not yet win the Pac-12 South. The Arizona State Sun Devils, the Colorado Buffaloes, and the UCLA Bruins do not figure to be significant challengers in the South in 2018 but could all play spoilers for one of the contenders.
While there is a benefit in Utah’s 2018 schedule (see the first article), the Utes get the worst Pac-12 North draw of any the three favorites to win the Pac-12 South. Arizona misses both Washington and Stanford, the two best teams in the North, while USC misses Washington and Oregon. Utah misses Cal and Oregon State, the two of the teams that project at the bottom of the North (both missed bowl games in 2017). Utah also has to play a stretch of at Washington State, at Stanford, Arizona at home (on a short week), and then USC at home. Both USC and Arizona avoid tough stretches like that that feature key opponents.
The Utes have struggled in November. 2011, Utah’s first season in the Pac-12, marks the only time Utah has had a winning record in November (they went 3-1). Since joining the Pac-12, Utah is only 13-15 in November games. Many of those losses came in games where Utah was favored. Utah could have won the Pac-12 South in 2011 with a win over Colorado at home. Utah also had chances to secure the Pac-12 South with wins in the second to last game of the season (they would also have to have beaten Colorado the next week) in 2014, 2015, and 2016, but they could not beat Arizona (who went on to win the South), UCLA, or Oregon (who missed a bowl game) respectively. Utah has a very winnable slate of games this November (at ASU, Oregon, at Colorado, and BYU), but they need to prove they can handle their business in November if they want to be Pac-12 South Champions.
Wide receiver and defensive line
These groups both land here because they both lost multiple starters from last season. Both groups and young and brimming with talent, but they both have a lot to prove. Darren Carrington II and Raelon Singleton, last year’s top two wide receivers are both gone. The group Utah has coming back is deep, but the only player in the group to top 500 yards receiving is Britain Covey, who had 519 receiving yards in 2015 before leaving for his LDS Mission. Bronson Boyd, Covey, Samson Nacua, Demari Simpkins, and Siaosi Wilson all have the potential to be great receivers for Utah, but they need to prove it on the field in 2018.
The defensive line has always been a position of strength at Utah. Last season, Utah brought back three seniors and looked to have one of the best groups in the country, but the group underperformed (partially due to injuries). Utah recorded their lowest sack total since joining the Pac-12. I mentioned this in the reasons why Utah will win the Pac-12 article because I think Gary Andersen will help this young, talented group have a big season in 2018, but it is still important to remember Utah lost three starters from the group, so it is no guarantee Utah will have a dominant front in 2018, again, this is something they need to prove.