Utah Utes Football: Top 5 Reasons They Will Survive, and Thrive, in the Pac-12
The University of Utah football team enters its inaugural season in the Pac-12 conference this fall. This will be the Utes’ first season in the BCS-affiliated conference.
It will be their chance to prove they can play with the big boys on a week-to-week basis. They will also silence their BCS critics, along with providing some support for the non-BCS teams who want a better opportunity at BCS bowls and the national championship.
The nation’s eyes will be on the Utes, BCS and non-BCS alike, to see how they perform in their new environment. The following slideshow lists the five top reasons why the Utes are ready to go in the Pac-12, and why they will succeed.
5. Elevation Advantage
Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium stands at 4,657 feet above sea level, the highest elevation for a playing field in the Pac-12 conference (save for Colorado's Folsom Field which stands at 5,360 feet above sea level). It will provide an exceptional home-field advantage for the Utes in their new conference.
The majority of Mountain West teams that Utah played each year previously, were also situated in similar elevation levels. The teams were used to playing at that height and were not affected when they came to Salt Lake City. However, now, most Pac-12 teams will not be used to playing at that elevation, as they are located close to sea level for the most part, especially in Utah's South Division. It will give the Utes a competitive edge to start games and throughout both halves of play as their conference foes come into Rice-Eccles to take on the Utes.
Utah's upcoming South Division opponents, besides Colorado (mentioned above), are accustomed to playing at elevation levels of 330 feet (USC's Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum), 864 feet (UCLA's Rose Bowl in Pasadena), 1,200 feet (Arizona State's Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe), and 2,430 feet (Arizona's Arizona Stadium in Tucson).
4. The MUSS
The Mighty Utah Student Section, or "The MUSS," which began participating at Utah football games during the 2002 season, will provide an additional advantage for the Utes against their conference foes. Teams from both the Pac-12 South and Pac-12 North divisions will come to Salt Lake City.
The MUSS has provided the Utes great support and has intimidated opposing teams who march into Rice-Eccles Stadium only to walk out with slumped shoulders and a loss. Utah's record at home in the last eight years, since the MUSS started overflowing in 2003, is an impressive 41-7. In the last four seasons, the Utes have tallied up a daunting 22-2 record on their home turf. The last three seasons, they have made it an almost unstoppable 17-1 record at RES.
The MUSS's loud traditions on the southeast sideline of the stadium, including the "3rd Down Chant," the "U of U Chop," and the "False Start Tally" will powerfully assist and back up the Utes on game days to come in the Pac-12.
3. Norm Chow
With new offensive coordinator, Norm Chow's, former experience in the conference (formerly known as the Pac-10) at USC and UCLA, the Utes will have an advantage that they otherwise would not have. They will know how to prepare for teams and have a familiarity with the defensive tendencies and schemes of the other Pac-12 schools.
All the opposing teams and coaches Utah will face are ones that Chow has faced before, except for Colorado. This should give Utah a preparation edge that they would be without if Chow had not signed on with them earlier this year.
2. Underdog Motivation Mentality
Utah's move to the Pac-12 has removed them from the non-BCS grounds up to the BCS fields. They will now be on an even playing field with the other BCS schools to compete for a spot in a BCS bowl and even a national championship opportunity.
However, this has not meant that they are automatically viewed as actually being equal to their soon-to-be Pac-12 BCS conference foes.
Just over a week ago, Arizona State's radio sideline reporter, Doug Franz, called the Utes a "cute" team and implied that Utah will not be viewed as equal until they've proven it in BCS conference play, commenting that it's not going to be like the Mountain West Conference anymore.
This type of thing will likely be coming from every school Utah plays in their new conference and it will give Coach Kyle Whittingham something extra to motivate his players, not that it's needed. It will nonetheless give them an even edgier mentality going into conference matchups in the coming years. Just look at what Utah did to Alabama after Nick Saban's comments before the 2009 Sugar Bowl. Utah thumped the Tide 31-17.
1. Kyle Whittingham
The 2011 season will be the start of Coach Kyle Whittingham's seventh season at the helm of Utah football.
He has posted a 57-20 record in the six years he has been up on the hill in Salt Lake City and a solid 33-6 record in the past three seasons. He has proven his capability for consistency and solid recruiting as well as player development in the multiple players per year he and his staff have sent off to the NFL.
His has a knack for preparation and always has his team in excellent physical shape,ready to play. Their high levels of mental toughness and sharpness in execution will also be key contributors to Utah's future success. Kyle Whittingham will continue to produce consistently and at a higher level with the increased national exposure and resources he will be given with the Utes’ move to the Pac-12.