Season of Hope
How the Utah Utes can make the College Football Playoff
The Utes return 7 starters on offense, including getting back QB Tyler Huntley and RB Zack Moss back from injuries that kept them out of the last 5 games. Moss rushed for 1096 yds in just 8 games and should easily be able to eclipse 1000 yds again. The WR group returns their top 5 pass catchers and 7/9 overall. Britain Covey, Jaylen Dixon and Samson Nacua combined for 123 catches and over 1500 yds. That doesn’t even mention Demari Simpkins, Solomon Enis and TE Cole Fotheringham, who provide even more depth. The O-line only returns 2 starters. However, 3 guys started 7+ games. They must rely on 2 redshirt freshmen to fill the other 2 spots. The Utes will be in great shape if they can step up. Last season, the Offense scored 28 pts per game. With all of their weapons back, they should be able to eclipse the 30 pts/game mark.
Simply put, this defense is good. The D-line returns basically everyone, including all 4 starters. DE Bradlee Anae and DT Leki Fotu are the headliners (11 sacks), but DE Maxs Tupai and DT John Penisini (5 sks 7.5 tfls) can create havoc as well. The secondary returns 3 starters and all 3 are very talented. DB Javelin Guidry had 42 tackles and broke up 9 passes, while FS Julian Blackmon recorded 48 tackles and broke up 10 passes. The leader of the secondary is CB Jaylon Johnson who intercepted 4 passes. The 2 non-starters returning combined for 32 tackles. Overall, the secondary should rank as one of the Top 25 units in the nation. The LBs are the tough spot. However, they bring in transfer former Penn St LB Manny Bowen to go along with Francis Bernard, who played significant time.
The special teams unit must start freshman at both kicker and punter. However, Kyle Whittingham always has solid special teams units.
Utah has a pretty easy non-conference slate with a game @BYU, which should be the only real test. In conference, they face Wazzu, Arizona St and UCLA at home. They also face a very tough California defense. But that one is in Salt Lake City as well. They have a game @USC early, and Clay Helton could be coaching for his job already. The big game is on the road at Washington in November. That will be their biggest test. However, with the depth back on offense and the defense as good as it is, there is no game that is un-winnable. This team has an excellent shot at 10+ wins and if they can knock off Washington they will be a Conference Championship win away from the playoff.