#25 Utah Utes
Kyle Whittingham has the best Utah football team since 2004, when Urban Myer was the coach in Salt Lake City and Alex Smith was under center. Last year, even though plagued by injuries, the Utes went bowling where they beat Navy 35-32 in the Poinsetta Bowl to extend their all-time bowl record to an impressive 10-3.
The Utes offense is lead by senior quarterback Brian Johnson and senior running back Darrell Mack, both being rewarded 2nd team All Mountain West honors in 2007. Darrell Mack racked up 1236 yards and 12 TDs on the ground in 2007, and wasn’t healthy the whole season missing 2 games late in the season due to injury. Johnson, who separated his shoulder in the first game last year played through it and won MVP of the bowl game. Johnson is so far in camp says the shoulder is fine and he is ready to go. The Utes have the weapons to have another magical season like they did in 2004. The Utes have the favorable small conference schedule that with non-conference wins over Michigan week one and Oregon State in the middle of the season they could very easily run the table and go 12-0 like Boise St. did 2 years ago.
The weakness I see this year that may hold them back from not going 12-0 is that they lost a lot of experience on the defensive side of the ball. The Utes are showcasing 5 new starters this year on defense, as the lost 5 starters from 2007, 3 of which were 1st team all conference. After blowing a lead last year late in the game and quite frankly choking at BYU losing 17-10 as the Utes defense let Bronco Mendenhall and the Cougars go on a game winning drive in the final minute that included a 49 yard pass on 4th-18. Look for the Utes to be looking for a little revenge as the Utes and the Cougars match up in Salt Lake City the last week of the regular season, in the 84th “Holy War” game. As Utah may have a perfect season and a BCS berth on the line.
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College Football Analyst Ryan "The Riv" Thomas contributed this report.