It is the doldrums of summer, no fall camp yet, and we have been without any college sports for months now. It is this time of year when we get lots of preseason predictions. The Pac-12 media poll will come out tomorrow, but before that happens, let’s take a look at what some national writers are saying about the Pac-12 and the Utah Utes football program specifically.
Now, let’s dive head first into these predictions to see where people see Utah stacking up.
Back in early June, Athlon Sports picked Utah to finish 8-4, going perfect in nonconference play and 5-4 in conference play, finishing second in the Pac-12 South, behind USC and tied for the same record with Arizona. They do not do game-by-game predictions, but given that they have Utah ahead of Arizona with the same record, it would seem they expect the Utes to beat the Wildcats. They also rank different units (Utah finishes in the top 6 in every group expect wide receivers). They also rank players of the year, coach of the year (Braden Gall had Kyle Whittingham), sleeper team (Lassan and Gall both had the Utes), breakout player (Mark Ross had Chase Hansen), and other categories. Utah was in the conversation to win the Pac-12 South (they have a section on how difficult it was to pick a winner of the division), but they ultimately went with USC due to the talent on the Trojans roster. Washington was the pick to win the Pac-12.
Patterson does not predict records, Pac-12 standings, or game-by-game predictions. Instead, he takes each team’s over-under win total from Vegas and states whether he would take the over or the under. For Utah at 7 wins, he said to take the over. He actually has the Utes going 9-3, below is what he had to say:
I’m very bullish on Utah. Drawing Washington, Stanford and Oregon from the Pac-12 North is brutal, but Utah still has a chance to be a player in the Pac-12 race with home games against USC and Arizona in October. I think Utah can win two or three of those five games and finish year 9-3 in the thick of the conference title race.
It is also worth noting that he has USC going 8-4 (though at least one if not two of those losses will be in nonconference play in his opinion).
Connelly, the resident SBNation advanced stats guru, uses S&P+, which he created. He says that the article does not factor in schedule and is not meant as a prediction and more how he sees the “balance of power” in the conference. S&P+ estimates that Utah will win 7.0 games, 4.6 in the Pac-12. He has Utah third in the South behind USC (8.2 wins 6.4 Pac-12) and Arizona (7.5 wins 5.3 Pac-12). He also breaks the conference up into four tiers. The top tier is led by Washington, followed by USC, Stanford, and Oregon (the contenders), he has Utah atop tier two along with Arizona and UCLA (the teams that will challenge USC in the South), the four teams in tier three, California, Washington State, Colorado, and Arizona State, are all fighting to make a bowl, and he has Oregon State bringing up the caboose of the Pac-12 train alone in tier four at the bottom.
Bender does not make record predictions, just Pac-12 North and South standings predictions. He has Washington winning the conference (and the Pac-12 North) and USC winning the Pac-12 South, with Utah second. He also predicts the X-factor and sleeper team for each division. He lists the top three games (No. 3 is USC at Utah) as well.
Utah finishing 8-4 and finishing 3rd in the Pac-12 South sounds pretty reasonable right? College Football News makes game-by-game predictions for their record predictions. While the overall record and division pecking order make sense, their game-by-game predictions do not. They have Utah going 3-0 in nonconference (which makes sense given the schedule), 4-0 at home in conference, and only 1-4 on the road. Now consider the opponents, this means they have Utah beating Washington (their only loss on the year), Arizona, USC, and Oregon at home, but losing on the road to Stanford (very reasonable), UCLA, ASU, and WSU, with their only road conference win coming at Colorado. It seems like their method across the board was heavily favor the home team. If Utah is able to beat Washington, Arizona, USC, and Oregon, they will not lose to all of ASU, UCLA, and WSU (they would likely lose one of those at most). That would have to be heartbreaking if the season played out like that, beating all the top teams in the conference but struggling against the bottom half on the road. I will all but guarantee this scenario will not play out for Utah, College Sports News needs to put far less weight into home versus away because they have some seriously dumb game predictions (very good teams losing to mediocre teams simply because the game is on the road). They have Washington winning North and USC winning the South.
This website is obviously gambling focused (it is bets in the name), but there are record and division standings predictions. He has Washington winning the North, and USC winning the South. He says Utah is a team to watch and has them going 8-4 and second in the Pac-12 South. He cites their tough schedule though. Boyd is higher on USC (and Colorado for some reason) than most, confidently picking them to win the South and says they are a Playoff contender.
Overall, it seems like most have Utah as a contender in the Pac-12 South, and few seem confident in USC, but most have the Trojans winning the South on raw talent. Most see the Utes winning about 8 games which is impressive, especially given the schedule they have. Washington is the runaway favorite in the conference, which makes sense given the amount of talent they return in Seattle. What do you think of these predictions? Does anyone have it right? What are your predictions?