Utah Betting Odds Preview
Like Colorado, Utah has struggled since moving into the Pac-12. Over their last three seasons in the Mountain West the Utes went 33-6 overall, 21-3 in conference play; since joining the Pac-12 Utah has gone 8-5, 5-7 and 5-7, missing a bowl the last two seasons. Wasn't it more fun being the big fish in the little pond? But what's done is done.
Utah's goal is now to get back to a bowl, and try to start making some noise in the Pac-12 South. But the competition is stiff, with UCLA, USC, Arizona and Arizona State all on the rise. The Utes knocked off Stanford last year, and had a chance at other surprises. Somehow, they've got to turn 2-7 in the Pac-12 into at least 5-4.
Utah started 4-2 last year, with wins over Utah State and BYU and that great upset over Stanford, and tough losses at home to Oregon State and UCLA. But the win over the Cardinal must have taken a lot out of them, because the Utes lost their next five in a row to fall out of bowl contention. They nearly beat both Pac-12 division champions, but blew a fourth-quarter lead and lost to Arizona State. Utah ended its skid with a win over Colorado in the season finale to finish at 5-7 SU, 6-6 ATS.
The Utes are now 9-18 SU, 10-17 ATS in three seasons of Pac-12 competition.
This year Utah returns just 12 starters, one more than last year but second-fewest in the conference. Six starters are back on offense, including QB Travis Wilson (16/16 TD/INT last year), WR Dres Anderson (1,000 yards last year) and three along the offensive line. And six starters return on defense, including all three linebackers.
The Utes will play what Phil Steele ranks as the eighth-toughest schedule in the country this season. They've got non-conference games with Fresno State and at Michigan, five Pac-12 road dates, including at UCLA, Oregon State (on a Thursday night), Arizona State and Stanford, and home games with Washington State, USC, Oregon and Arizona. But, sadly, no BYU.
Utah gave some good teams tough games last year, and may well do the same this season. But are there six wins on that schedule?
Pac-12 Championship Odds at Bovada as of August 5
Arizona State 12/1
Oregon State 33/1
Washington State 50/1
Utah was a power player in the Mountain West Conference for more than a decade, winning four conference titles and carrying that conference's banner into 11 bowls games. But since joining the Pac-12 two seasons ago the Utes are just 13-12 overall, 7-11 in conference play, and last year missed a bowl for the first time since 2002. What's that saying about being a big fish in a small pond? This year Utah will try to start another bowl streak, but it won't be easy, playing nine games in what has become one of the toughest conferences in the country.
Utah had 16 starters back last year from a team that went 8-5 in 2011, and few suspected a nine-year bowl streak was in jeopardy. But a couple of key injuries and close losses later the Utes were home for the holidays, watching the bowls on TV. Early on Utah lost for the first time in 13 games to rival Utah State (in overtime), later blew a 14-point lead and lost to USC by 10, then lost to UCLA by a touchdown, then out-gained Oregon State but lost 21-7. Then after a couple of Pac-12 victories, with bowl eligibility on the line, the Utes led Arizona into the fourth quarter but lost by 10 points. So Utah finished 5-7 overall, 3-6 in Pac-12 play, and 5-7 ATS.
This year, as the Utes look to rebound, they return 12 starters, second-fewest in the league. Six starters are back on offense, including sophomore QB Travis Wilson, who completed 63 percent of his throws as a freshman last year, and last year's top three receivers; and six starters return on defense, including last year's top four tacklers. But they'll have to replace three starters on the offensive line and two on the defensive line. This year's schedule is even tougher than last year's, considering that after missing Stanford and Oregon the last two seasons the Cardinal and Ducks both pop up on Utah's slate.
The Utes open with home games against Utah State and Weber State, and the going then gets really rough, because the next eight games are against teams that made bowls last year and will probably make bowls this year. Utah hosts Oregon State, visits BYU, hosts UCLA and Stanford, visits Arizona and USC, hosts Arizona State, and visits Oregon. The Utes then finish with Washington State and Colorado, but by then bowl-eligibility might be out of reach. Utah might be an underdog in four of its five conference home games, and in all four of its conference road games.
Pac-12 Championship Odds at 5Dimes as of August 11
Oregon State +1050
Arizona State +1100
Washington State +6000