When looking at the year ahead, the eye is predominantly drawn to the contests that take place on the field of Rice-Eccles Stadium. As the Utes prepare to take on a very manageable Pac-12, with the Southern division being relatively docile, the Utes are looking at a possible berth in the Championship.
It would be easy to predict a complete domination of the Western hemisphere by a divine Utah football team, led by Kyle Whittingham on horseback, holding a burning BYU flag and trampling down the Colosseum. Alas, we must take an objective look at the Utah football schedule and make logical conclusions about the outcomes of those games
Week 1: Utah v. Weber State: According to ESPN’s prediction metrics, the Utes have a 95.4% chance of defeating the Wildcats of Weber State. While Weber State is a young program on the rise, ranking eighth in the nation in their division of play, this one should be a rinse, and an opportunity for the Utes to see some action from their freshman players. Recent BYU poach Francis Bernard will make his Utah debut, dominate the Wildcat’s offensive line and get to starting quarterback Jake Constantine — constantly.
Zach’s Prediction: Utah 42, Weber State 10
Week 2: Utah @ Northern Illinois: Now this one is an interesting case study. The Utes and Huskies of NIU will meet in the week 2 matchup coming from very different scenarios. Utah will have (hopefully) handled Weber State, while NIU was faced with Iowa to start the season — a team looking for a consistent berth in the top 10 in coaches’ ranking polls. ESPN gives Utah a 72.1% chance to win, but an unfamiliar foe might surprise the Utes, who are looking to prove themselves as more than above-average.
Zach’s Prediction: Utah 24, NIU 17
Week 3: Utah v. Washington: The true meat of Utah’s schedule begins in mid-September with a matchup with long-time kryptonite Washington. Utah was stunned at home two years ago (that punt shouldn’t have counted!) and was subject to an enormous comeback in Seattle last year. The biggest takeaway from this game? Possible Pac-12 Championship game matchup. This one will be a battle, but I don’t think Utah is ready to slay this demon yet. I just don’t trust Tyler Huntley with that big of a turnover at WR against Jake Browning and Huskies coach Chris Petersen. However, if I had to put a game on upset alert, it would definitely be this one. Utah at home is an animal very few teams want to face.
Zach’s Prediction: Utah 27, Washington 31
Week 4: Utah @ Washington State: The Utes should find this matchup a relief from the dogfight (get it?) against the Huskies the week prior. Washington State is trying to figure out its quarterback room after Luke Falk’s departure, and heavy roster turnover should give the Utes an easy win.
Zach’s Prediction: Utah 20, WSU 13
Week 5: Utah @ Stanford: Utah’s second away game in as many weeks sets them up against a relatively clear favorite to run away with the Pac-12. Bryce Love’s Heisman campaign will make a stop against the Utes and, unfortunately, the Cardinal will be simply too much for the Utes to handle. Another upset alert, although minor, as the Utes have given Stanford a run for their money in the last few matchups. That was with way stronger offensive groups for the Utes, however. The takeaway, again, is a possible Pac-12 Championship matchup, but the Utes would much rather face the Huskies than a Cardinal team on a mission to get their running back a Heisman.
Zach’s Prediction: Utah 14, Stanford 27
Week 6: Utah v. Arizona: This will be a much-deserved break from the gauntlet of the past three weeks. The Wildcats are in the midst of rebuilding, and Utah has had a record of handling business against quarterback-centric offenses. Not an easy win for the Utes, but a solid confidence boost going into next week.
Zach’s Prediction: Utah 24, Arizona 14
Week 7: Utah v. USC: Let me make one thing abundantly clear — this is Utah’s most important game of the season. Assuming teams in the Pac-12 play as predicted, the Utes and Trojans will be deadlocked for the top of the South for the duration of the season. The Utes need this win to act as a tiebreaker, should the teams end with the same record. USC will be looking to rookie quarterback JT Daniels, and the Utes will have the home field. Things look good for the Utes, but never count out a program as great as USC. I’m going with Utah solely because of experience at quarterback. Tyler Huntley has seen this beast before.
Zach’s Prediction: Utah 21, USC 20
Week 8: Utah @ UCLA: Another huge sigh of relief after last week. The Utes will look to make easy work of a rebuilding Bruins team at the Rose Bowl. However, new UCLA coach Chip Kelly will help revamp a damaged offensive group and will upset an exhausted Utes squad at the Rose Bowl.
Zach’s Prediction: Utah 20, UCLA 23
Week 9: Utah @ Arizona State: After losing some depth on the offensive side of the ball, and matching up with other stacked teams in the Pac-12, the Sun Devils will look to spoil what has (hypothetically) been a great Utah season. Both teams are relatively equal, but Utah’s dominant offensive line and receiver corps will help the Utes win this one.
Zach’s Prediction: Utah 23, ASU 17
Week 10: Utah v. Oregon: The Utes will have a new opportunity against a Ducks team that is looking to forget about last season, which ended with a 4-8 record. With a shift of power in the Pac-12, anything is possible, but I don’t see the Ducks upsetting here. This might be the Ute’s most even matchup of the year in terms of speed and player ability.
Zach’s Prediction: Utah 17, UO 14
Week 11: Utah @ Colorado: The Utes and Buffaloes have had a fairly solid rivalry since both of them entered the Pac-12 in 2011. Both teams have taken turns knocking the other out of bowl games, playoff contention, etc., but the Buffaloes are in a serious rebuilding phase, which the Utes will take advantage of for an easy win.
Zach’s Prediction: Utah 34, CU 21
Week 12: Utah v. BYU: The 2018 regular season will come to a close against the infamous team down South. Utah will be preparing for their bowl game, while the Cougars will be wallowing after a 0-11 run. Am I kidding? Probably. Do I wish I weren’t? Absolutely. Utes take over early and hand BYU their eighth consecutive loss to the best team in the state.
Zach’s Prediction: Utah 8, BYU 0
Zach’s Actual Prediction: Utah 27, BYU 10
Final Record: 9-3