Avinash: I never underestimate Utah. The Utes have lost their quarterback, their running backs, their wide receivers and most of their front seven, and I still have the inevitable feeling they'll be in a dogfight with the Bears in the 4th quarter. Kyle Whittingham is one of the best gameday coaches in college football and makes the most with the least. Utah does have their entire offensive line back, so if they can practice ball control against a weaker Cal interior they can grind that clock out. And the secondary that forced a billion turnovers last season is also mostly back, so if the run game grinds to a halt it will all come down to how well the Bears can stretch the field.
Based on what you saw last year, what do you think of Cal's chances to get their revenge against Utah?
Nick Kranz: Utah is another team that, based purely on personnel loss due to graduation, should be set for regression. They are last in the nation (even worse than Cal!) in returning yardage, and in the bottom quintile in returning tackles. For a team that doesn't recruit at an elite level, that's a lot of production to replace on short notice.
On the other hand, Utah still has lots of program experience (if not starter experience) on the depth chart and they particularly have experience and talent coming back on both the offensive and defensive lines, areas that have been hallmarks of strength for the program under Whittingham. Is that enough to make up for all kinds of uncertainty at the skill positions?
To me, Utah will have one of the widest ranges of plausible outcomes this year. I wouldn't be surprised if strong line performances lead to another high-end Pac-12 defense and an offense that can grind out enough points to win a bunch of games. I also wouldn't be surprised if Utah fields an impotent offense with a defense that lacks the speed and secondary talent to slow down superior opponents, and misses out on a bowl game. For Cal's sake, I hope it's the latter because this is another game that the Bears will likely need to go bowling themselves.
Andy Johnston: I'd like to believe the home matchup makes a world of difference when facing Utah this year versus last season. The Ute's lost a fair amount of talent on the defensive side of the ball but I still would expect their DB's to challenge our receivers similar to how they did last year. A victory against Utah at home is almost a must if we are looking to match or go beyond last seasons results. The biggest task will be how our defensive line can stack up against the Utah offensive line, if we can win that matchup the game itself should lean in our favor.
Nik Jam: I can see them still being solid around despite key losses. Their coaching staff is solid and a great lines that can make up for big losses in the skill positions. They wear red too. Gee, this all sounds frustratingly familiar.
And I know someone who plays for the Utes. So this is a game I'm excited for. Might be the best shot for Cal to get a home win in the first half of the season.
boomtho: I think Wittingham is a great coach who has maximized the defensive talent he's had in Utah to create some truly fearsome defenses. I have less a sense of the offensive talent he had, but given all the struggles that unit had with a veteran QB and a talented RB... there are probably some questions on that side of the ball.
I'm really, really glad we're playing Utah in Memorial instead or Rice-Eccles. However, I have more faith in Wittinham to put a competent defense that isn't big-play susceiptble than Todd Graham. Thus, I expect to find Cal in a tough game, probably down 7-10 points at some point in the 4th, and if i had to predict today, I'd expect we lose. Class pessimistic boomtho.