The long torture of summer sports is almost over, but we still have a little ways to go. To get things ready, I went over every single game on the Pac-12 schedule in 2016 and predicted records for each team.
I'm going to countdown how I think the teams ultimately stack up in the final regular season standings with snapshots of each team.
#12 was Oregon State
#11 was Colorado
#10 was Cal
#9 was Arizona
#8 is… Utah
Prediction: 6-6 (3-6) fourth in South
Bowl: Cactus Bowl vs. Kansas State
Wins: Southern Utah, BYU, at San Jose State, Arizona, at Oregon State, Colorado
Losses: USC, at Cal, at UCLA, Washington, at Arizona State, Oregon
The Utes have to replace a lot of what made 2015 a great season for them, but they still have the pieces returning that can make them a real player in the South and a team which should be guaranteed a bowl appearance. The Utes are going to lose some games which will frustrate their fans, but I also think they are going to win a couple which make them smile and end up with a good, but not great season.
Non-Conference: It’s all about The Holy War here and I think the Utes can pull out a tight one. They should be able to coast outside of that tough rivalry game and head into conference play 3-0.
In-Conference: The Utes might be the toughest team in the Pac-12 to pick. I could see them beating anyone in the Pac-12, but I could also see them losing to everyone in the Pac-12. Because of this, their wins and losses for me are pretty versatile.
I think the Utes can easily handle Arizona at home and Oregon State on the road and can survive a hungry Colorado team at home, but things get tricky after that.
The losses will be tough for the Utes. I think both the LA schools get them this year and I see a couple coin toss road games at lesser opponents like Arizona State and Cal not going their way. I also see them falling to an Oregon team that will likely be on fire trying to avenge last season’s embarrassment.
How Will This Feel In December?
It won’t feel great, but getting to seven wins and another bowl in a down year I think shows that Utah has officially solidified themselves as a force in the South. The big thing to me will be how Utah’s quarterback does. If the Utes win only seven games, but have a quarterback emerge who looks like he can be their first difference maker at the position since they moved to the Pac-12, I think fans will see it as a growth year which sets them up to take the next step in their evolution and win the South in the coming years.