The Utah Utes. Because Utah Utahians Was Taken. A Look At Utah In 2011

TwistNHook:  What to make of these Utes?  Our first Pac-12 game against an expansion foe (as the earlier Colorado game is technically not a Pac-12 game).  This is a Utah team that seems able to hang with the big boys.  They have won 2 BCS games, which is 2 more than Cal has even attended, let alone won!  Damn you, Mack Brown.  


But this is their first year in the Pac-12 (really, it's everybody's first year, but juts stick with me for a second here).  You can't take any weeks off in the Pac-12.  Not even against WSU, as Cal learned last year.  In the MWC, you could perhaps relax a week here or there.  But with Utah smack dab in the middle of its fiercest season ever, Cal just might catch them at the right time.  How do we see the Utes in 2011?


Berkelium97:  Utah receives a wonderful welcoming gift from the Pac-12 scheduling committee: they don't have to play Oregon and Stanford.  With OOC games against Montana State, BYU, and Pitt, Utah may have the conference's easiest schedule this season.  Still, the game against Cal comes off a stretch of games which will define Utah's season.  They have consecutive home games against Washington and ASU followed by a road game against Pitt.  They certainly can win all these games.  Whether they manage to notch consecutive quality wins will tell us how well this team will fare in its BCS conference debut.  If they are fired up in their first Pac-12 conference game and defeat USC, they might be undefeated when they visit the Bears.

Thankfully for us Cal fans, we'll have a nine-day break to lick our wounds after the tough UW-Oregon-USC stretch.  Those two additional days of rest and prep could play a big role at the midpoint in the schedule.  No matter the outcome of the three previous weeks' games, the Bears ought to come back focused, rested, and ready for a little revenge for the '09 Poinsettia Bowl.

LeonPowe:  A couple years away from their kicking our ass in San Diego - with a highly improved defense, and hopefully some of the kinks in the offense worked out by then, I think we gain some revenge for 2009. 

Kodiak:  The first thing that strikes me when I look at the Utah depth chart is that they have a ton of returning starters and plenty of upper classmen.  Having veterans who are used to winning is usually a recipe for success in the Pac-12.


Their QB, Jordan Wynn, is a 3-year starter.  Although his numbers indicate that he usually plays pretty well, he really struggled when Utah played against tougher opponents last year.  TCU and Notre Dame both abused Utah and Wynn was only able to complete about half of his passes.  That makes me hopeful that Coach Pendergast's defense will be able to make life miserable for the Utah offense.

Wynn has to learn a new offense this year with Norm Chow coming in after a surprisingly unsuccessful stint with ucla.  They'll be breaking in a new RB and two new starters on the Oline, so their running game might be a little suspect. Chow has a rep for developing QBs and productive offenses, however.   

It's their defense that looks imposing.  They have a stud MLB(Chaz Walker) who is on a bunch of pre-season watch lists.  Only one of their projected starters isn't a junior or senior, but he was good enough to start last year as a freshmen.(SS Brian Blechen)  


Although the front seven appears tough, they have 3/4 new starters in the secondary.  So, that might be an area of vulnerability.  Coach Whittingham is supposed to be defensive-minded with an emphasis on the pass rush - it's unknown how well our rehabilitated Oline will hold up.

This one has the looks of a defensive struggle.  Whichever offense can avoid being one-dimensional will probably pull it out.

For once, if it's a close game we might have an edge because they're breaking in a new place kicker.

I think our D can hang with them.  I just don't know if we'll be able to move the ball well enough.  Coming off of nine days of rest should help a lot, however.  I think the coaching staff should have us well-prepared for this one.  We shock the world and eke out the win with a fourth quarter walk-off scoring drive.

 

NorCalNick:  It will be interesting to see what kind of shape the Utes will be in when they arrive in San Francisco.  They will have played six games, including four BCS teams and BYU.  They'll be two weeks removed from a huge game against presumptive Pac-12 South favorite Arizona St. and one week removed from an east coast road trip to Pittsburgh.  That's lots of travel and lots of big games for a team used to the Mountain West.  So by the time they face the Bears we should have a pretty good sense if Utah is ready to handle the rigors of a BCS schedule.

 
If Utah has already lost to USC and Arizona St. they might have already blown a chance at a Pac-12 championship game berth.  I think I'd feel marginally more confident if that is the case.

 

TwistNHook:  Score predictions?

NorCalNick:  Cal holds on for a tense victory, 27-24.  Cal's offense shows increasing improvement over the first few games, and playing at home (even in SF) makes all the difference.  Utah both continues to prove that they belong while also learning that road wins in the Pac-12 are precious and hard to earn.

 

OhioBear:  I have a good feeling about this game.  Well, only about as good a feeling as a Cal fan can have -- to paraphrase the wisdom of CalBear 81, I hope for the best, expect the worst, and be happy about whatever good happens.  And in this game, I think some good can happen. 

 

Utah is a good program and I have great respect for them and what they have accomplished during the past decade.  But I just don't think the Utes' transition into the Pac-12 will be as smooth as some might think.  This is one of those games that might bear that out: on paper, conventional wisdom might make Utah the favorite, but after a two-week stretch in which they will have played ASU (one of their chief competitors in the Pac-12 South) and gone across the country to play at Pitt, this game might be a tester for them. 
 
That is true, of course, only if Cal brings its A-game and plays well.  By this time, we'll know a bit of who we are.  Right now, I'll hope for the best and think that we will figure out that we have a pretty good defense and that our offense actually has the ability to score.  
 
Cal 28, Utah 20   

I'm a little worried about facing this Utah team since they do have Jordan Wynn.  The kid isn't too bad.  He has a 7.81 yard per attempt average.  He's got a 3.34% INT rate (a little high but not bad).  He only got sacked 6 times on 299 pass attempts last year (2% sack rate).  And he completed 62.2% of his passes last year.  Not too shabby for a true sophomore.  Of course, this year he will be going against tougher Pac-12 defenses week in and week out, but I think the guy is good enough to be a headache for most Pac-12 defenses.  

 

HydroTech:  Utah does a great job spreading the ball around in the air too.  Last year they had five players with over 25 receptions.  Fortunately for Pac-12 defenses though, four of those players aren't returning so Utah will be breaking in some fairly new receivers.  Nevertheless, I think this is an offense and a team that is capable of winning against Pac-12 teams and shouldn't be taken lightly. 

I see this game as a close Cal victory or a close Cal loss.  I hope it's a crushing Cal victory because I want revenge for that Poinsettia Bowl loss.


Berkelium97:  I anticipate this one will come down to the final drive.  The Cal D manages to hold off a tenacious, but error-prone Utah offense in the last couple minutes to preserve a 24-21 victory.

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