Utes are talented, but need to prove it


— Chris Samuels

The 2014 season is providing a sense of deja vu in Ute Country.
Utah drops a nail biter at home in its Pac-12 opener, pulls off an upset over a highly-ranked opponent that very few saw coming, then must endure a brutal six-game stretch through the Conference of Champions.
Does this sound familiar to any Utah fans out there?
In 2013, the Utes pulled off an amazing upset over a top five team in Stanford, but then dropped the five games after that, squashing all hopes and dreams of any Ute followers that had a sliver of hope for the season.
Despite one of the toughest stretches Utah may have to go through since joining the conference on the horizon, this season is nothing like the last one and this team is nothing like the 2013 Utes.
First off, the upset over UCLA two weekends ago, in my mind, was way more impressive than the win over Stanford. Yes, the Cardinal were ranked higher at the time than the Bruins were two weeks ago, and I do believe the team led by Kevin Hogan and company was much more talented than UCLA this year.
That being said, Utah’s upset over the Bruins takes more stock because of the fact it was on the road. Not only was it on the road, but it was in the Rose Bowl – one of the greatest sporting venues in the nation. The win over UCLA was more about the Utes getting rid of their road woes than it was about beating a highly-ranked opponent, but Utah took care of both in that trip to Pasadena.
This brings us to the brutal stretch of games the Utes will endure over the next six weeks.
Oregon State, USC, Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford, Arizona.
With how good the Pac-12 is, each one of these games can be a loss for Utah. This season has the chance to play out nearly exactly how 2013 did, but forget about it.
I won’t even bring up how T-Willy got hurt last season the week after the Stanford game, therefore causing the 2013 Utes to never look quite the same the rest of the way, but this year’s squad is visibly better.
I’ve been saying this to myself all year, but Utah is two-thirds of a team. The Utes are tenacious on defense, evident by their high number of sacks and tackles for loss, and the special teams may be the best unit in the nation, led by midseason All-Americans in Tom Hackett, Andy Phillips and Kaelin Clay.
The other one-third, the offense, has struggled. Sure, they put it together against the Bruins two weekends ago and it’s possible that the Kendal Thompson-Devontae Booker combination becomes a deadly duo, but as of right now, we really don’t know all that much about the offense of this team.
The jury is still out on the Utes this season, but I know they are better than last year’s squad. Whether or not it can survive this sling of games is yet to be seen, but Utah has the talent to back up its most recent rise in the national rankings.
The Utes have the ability to be a top 25 team the rest of the way, now it’s time to prove it.
It all starts Thursday night in Corvallis against the Beavers.
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