The Utah Utes have finished with a losing record just twice over the last13 seasons under Head Coach Kyle Whittingham. However, during the last seven seasons Utah has won 10 games just once. The Utes consistently put out a solid football team, but have struggled to win throughout the entire season.
Utah had Freshmen and Sophomores starting at almost every position. The inexperience showed with a record of two wins and four losses in one possession games. There could be room for some positive regression in that area since most of the starters are returning.
Utah is expected to finish in the top half of the Pac 12 with a win total of 7 (-115 Over / -115 Under) at BetDSI. A National Championship is extremely unlikely (+25000) and playing in the same Conference as Washington makes the road to a Conference championship that much more difficult (+1400) per the odds from 5Dimes.
|9/8||@ Northern Illinois||-7.5|
|9/29||@ Washington State||-5.5|
|11/3||@ Arizona State||-12|
Quarterback Tyler Huntley will be expected to be much more efficient in 2018. Last year he finished the season with 15 TDs and 10 INTs. He was hurt in the fourth game of the season against the Arizona Wildcats and then missed the following two games against Stanford and USC. Both of these games were decided by a total of four points.
The Running Back position will be a strength of this team. Both of the leading rushers from last year are returning. Zach Moss returns after rushing for 1173 yards and 10 touchdowns. Armand Shyne contributed another 370 yards before going down with injury.
Utah has always been a run first offense who values taking care of the ball over explosive plays under Coach Whittingham. Therefore the lack of standout talent at the Wide Receiver position is not as big of a concern as it would be for most teams.
Additionally, the Utes are returning four starting Offensive Lineman. This will help in the running game and giving the Wide Receivers time to get open.
The Utah Utes will feature one fo the best pass defenses in the Pac 12. Both Cornerbacks are returning after strong seasons. Julian Blackmon had four interceptions and six passes defensed. Jaylon Johnson had seven passes defensed as a Freshman.
After allowing just a 113.4 Passer Rating against, the Pass Defense may even better with five of the six Safeties who played last year returning. The Run Defense was middle of the pack last year, but Whittingham has always done a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage.
This could be the toughest schedule in the Pac 12. ESPN FPI ranks it as the 22nd toughest schedule and Phil Steele has it as the 10th. The Utes do get to play their toughest opponents at home (Washington, Arizona, USC, Oregon). If Utah does not win these games, the majority of wins will have to come on the road.
The Coaching Staff maintains continuity after Troy Taylor’s first year as Offensive Coordinator. Last year the offense struggled to generate big plays. This is the main area of improvement from this unit. Defensive Coordinator Morgan Scalley will be in his third year at Utah. The culture that Head Coach Kyle Whittingham has built will not be threatened by new entrants.
Whittingham has won 11 of his 12 bowl games and has a Career Record of 111-56 (.665 Winning Percentage). Many of the Pac 12 teams are entering 2018 with a new Coach. Some of them may struggle to fit previously recruited athletes into new systems. Utah has a valuable edge with stability.
My Pick: Under 7 Wins (-115)
The Utes always have a shot for at least seven wins as long as Kyle Wittingham is the Head Coach. The roster for the 2018 season is one of the better ones the Utes have had.
However, the schedule is cause for concern. If all of the coaches were not returning as well as starters at key position I would be more worried. These personnel have been already been tested on the road and will need to capitalize on all of that experience.
Eight of Utahs twelve games are projected to be decided by a touchdown or less. In close games, the experienced team has an edge or should at least be able to steal some wins. The first two out of conference games against Weber State and Northern Illinois should be wins and Utah should be favored by double digits.
Utah then needs to win five out of it’s 10 last games including an end of season matchup against the BYU Cougars where Utah should be favored by a healthy amount. Some of the remaining five wins needed to hit the over will have to come on the road against UCLA, Colorado, Arizona State, and Washington State.
Your decision on playing this over comes down to if you feel Utah can steal a game or two at home against USC, Arizona, Washington, and Oregon while also winning consistently on the road.
Betting on the over here is a serious play on a strong trend that has continued for longer than a decade. Kyle Whittingham knows how to win consistently from year to year. The market knows he does, but without the flash of big plays and first round draft picks, there is still value on the over.
-END OF 2018 PREVIEW-
The Utah Utes have won at least nine games in each of the last three seasons but oddsmakers are not high on the Utes this season, as the win total for Utah was set at 5.5 at 5Dimes Sportsbook. The Utes made a change at offensive coordinator in hopes of improving an offense that scored under 30 points per game last season. The Utes lost a lot of talent on both sides of the ball but head coach Kyle Whittingham always seems to have his team in contention. Let’s look at the 2017 Utah Utes.
2017 Utah Utes Win Total
2017 Utah Utes Schedule
Aug. 31 North Dakota
Sept. 9 at BYU
Sept. 16 San Jose State
Sept. 22 at Arizona
Sept. 30 Bye
Oct. 7 Stanford
Oct. 14 at USC
Oct. 21 Arizona State
Oct. 28 at Oregon
Nov. 3 UCLA
Nov. 11 Washington State
Nov. 18 at Washington
Nov. 25 Colorado
Head coach Kyle Whittingham was not happy with the Utah offense last season so he went out and hired Troy Taylor as his new offensive coordinator. Taylor was at Eastern Washington and brings in a wide-open system. Taylor will be able to rely upon quarterback Troy Williams who passes for 2,757 yards last season.
The running game will miss Joe Williams but they do have Armand Shyne and Zack Moss returning. The interesting player in the spring was Devonta’e Henry-Cole, and he could get a feature role this season.
The Utes have plenty of receivers, as Raelon Singleton, Siaosi Wilson and Demari Simpkins return. The problem for Utah is upfront, as they have to replace four starters from the offensive line.
The defense for Utah is almost always a strength and that should be the case again in 2017. The front line is led by Lowell Lotulelei, who is the brother of Star who is in the NFL. The linebacking crew returns intact and should be a strength of the team. Sunia Tauteoli and Kavika Luafatasaga will lead the group of returnees.
The secondary for Utah is a mess, as almost all of the talent from last year is gone. The only returnee is strong safety Chase Hansen who had four fumble recoveries, three interceptions and 7.5 tackles for a loss last season.
Utah has become known in recent years for great special teams. They return punter Mitch Wishnowsky who was the best punter in the country last season. The Utes do have to replace kicker Andy Phillips. The Utes have ranked in the top 10 the last three seasons in special teams and even with a new kicker they figure to be strong again in 2017.
You have to give Whittingham a lot of credit, as he has the Utes in the hunt every season. What he hasn’t done though is win the Pac-12 South title. The problem for Whittingham this season is a tough schedule that probably will prevent the team from winning nine games or more in four straight seasons. But what we are looking at is the win total of 5.5 and that means they just need to win six games to go over the total.
2017 Utah Utes Win Total Prediction
You would think that Utah would be due for a fall after doing much better than expected for three straight years. The problem with going under the total with the Utes is that they just find a way to win games. They are 14-8 in their last 22 one-possession games.
Let’s look at the 2017 Utah schedule and see if they can win at least six games to go over their win total.
The Utes get very few bargains on their schedule. They have tough road games at BYU, USC, Oregon and Washington and they figure to lose at least three, if not all four of those games. They should win home games against North Dakota, San Jose State and Arizona State. They have toss-up games at Arizona and at home against Stanford, UCLA, Washington State and Colorado.
If they win their three home games that they should, and lose the four road games that look really tough they would be 3-4 with five toss-up games. If they go 3-2 in those games they get to six wins and go over the total. I think that is what will happen and they might even be able to steal the road game at BYU to get to seven wins. I am sure not going to doubt Whittingham and what he has done at Utah, so I will take the Utes to go over their win total of 5.5 in 2017.