Utah needs to rid itself of road woes to beat Michigan

It’s no secret Kyle Whittingham and the Utes have not exactly met fans’ expectations the last couple of seasons. With two consecutive losing campaigns, there are a number of things Utah needs to work on in order to make it back to the postseason in 2014.

The most important aspect that needs to be addressed, though, is the team’s play on the road. Last season, the Utes recorded a 1-4 record away from Rice-Eccles Stadium. The season before that saw a 1-5 record away from the confines of the Utes’ sanctuary.

Utah fans will find out just how improved this squad is on the road when the Utes travel to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan on Saturday.

Through the first three weeks of the season, I am pretty confident saying that Utah has a more talented team than the Wolverines. Despite not competing against the same talent level, the Utes just look like the team with more skill. To put it simply, Utah passes the eye test.

But the last couple of seasons, it’s almost like an entirely different team takes the field on the road instead of the home Utes that the fans grow to love.

Is it just me or have these first three weeks played out very similarly to the beginning weeks of the previous two seasons?

Win the first game against a terrible team — check.

Win the second game against a better, but still inferior opponent — check.

Give Utah fans something to gawk over and claim this year is different — check.

Go on the road and lose — TBD.

The first road trip is typically where things have gone south for the Utes. In recent seasons, the biggest road win is a victory in Provo against BYU. Yes, it is always important to beat your rival, and yes, it was a big win for Utah, but the fact of the matter is the Utes have only won a single Pac-12 game away from Salt Lake City in the past two years. To make things even worse, that game was against Colorado, the punching bag of the conference, and Utah narrowly got by, 42-35.

As my astute colleague, Ryan Miller, pointed out to me, a fully healthy Travis Wilson really hasn’t played in a road game outside of Utah since his freshman season, so the Michigan game will tell us a lot about the junior signal caller. He is much improved since coming into this season, and if the Utes want to become a contender rather than a pretender, it starts with Wilson’s play in this game.

Like I said, on paper, this Utah squad should have no problem against a struggling Michigan team. However, if the last few seasons are any indication, the game will be a lot closer than it probably should be.

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