Utah has been one of the safest bets in the country in the past few years, and they get 14 starters back from a team that won the South division last year, making them the favorite to repeat despite a tough schedule
QB Tyler Huntley returns after averaging 7.6 yards a throw in 2018. Huntley was hurt towards the end of the year but should be back at full health. Along with him returns all-conference RB Zack Moss, who rushed for nearly 1,100 yards on a 6.1 per carry basis last year.
Everyone is back in the receiving corps, including trusted target Britain Covery (60 receptions), deep threat Jaylen Dixon (18.4 yards per catch), slot man Britain Covey, and TE Cole Fotheringham, who was a great all-around tight end last year.
The line worries me a little as just two starters depart, but the Utes add a Washington State grad transfer and a few interesting freshman. This offense should be the best in recent history for Utah.
The Utes have a solid defense for a while but it ticked up even further in 2018, allowing just 4.6 yards a play and less than 20 points a game on average. They return one of the best lines in the leauge, with senior end Bradlee Anae (eight sacks, 7.5 TFL) and veteran tackles John Penisini and Leki Fotu in the middle (combined five sacks, eight TFL, very good in run defense). End Maxs Tupai is back after three sacks and three TFL as well.
On the second level, Utah loses star linebackers Chase Hansen and Cody Barton, but with a pair of transfers coming in, Manny Bowen from Penn State and Mique Juarez from UCLA, the talent shouldn’t drop off too much.
The secondary loses their top two safeties, but they return what was one of the best corner duos in the country last year, Jaylon Johnson and Julian Blackmon (combied 14 PBUs, five INTs). Blackmon will move to safety to fill the hole there and former JUCO transfer Tareke Lewis will step into his corner spot. Nickelback Javelin Guidry had nine PBUs last year and is back as well.
The D-Line and secondary should be excellent, and while I am worried a little about the linebacking corps, this could be one of the nation’s best defenses.
There are plenty of tossups on the schedule this year, and having to travel to face USC, Washington, and dark horse Arizona does hurt, but I’m even higher on the Utes than my model is, I think they’ll be a legit top 25 team and win the South yet again. Getting to a Rose Bowl or even a potential CFP bid over Washington or Oregon though? I’m not sure.
|at Oregon State
Average Projected Record: 7.8 wins, 4.2 losses (5.4 wins, 3.6 losses)