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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon
Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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Preseason speculations, can the Utes get to a bowl game?

With camps starting in about a week for most teams, the preseason speculation is in high gear. It will be interesting to see where the Utes land in the Pac-12 preseason poll released Friday.

I slotted the Utes in at No. 4 in their division, behind ASU, UCLA, USC and ahead of Arizona and Colorado.

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Several other polls have the Utes in fifth, behind Arizona. However, that Oct. 19 game at Arizona is just the kind of typical game the Utes have been able to win in the past. I think the Utes will thrive in an underdog role and sneak out with a win.

Looking at the schedule, I think a 7-5 or even a 6-6 season would be a good year for the Utes. Utah fans may want more wins, but the addition of Oregon and Stanford on the schedule will make it tough for the Utes to improve much on their 5-7 showing in 2012.

Utah State, Weber State and BYU are all virtual 'must wins,' if the Utes want to be bowl eligible. Washington State and Colorado are other games that look very winnable.

Then you get into the ones that look difficult but not impossible, to me those are home games against Oregon State and UCLA and ASU.

For sure Utah's game against ASU is going to be emotional for Utah co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson, who was fired at the end of the 2011 season by the Sun Devils. Sounds like an upset in the making for the Utes, doesn't it? Especially since that game comes after a bye for Utah, which has historically played well after a week off.

The road trip to Arizona could be the upset of the year for the Utes. That game could hinge more on how the two previous games - against UCLA and Stanford - go for the Utes than anything else.

If Utah is beaten down mentally and physically from those games winning at Arizona will be very, very difficult. On the other hand, if the Utes have some confidence and are relatively healthy, the Arizona game could be their's for the taking.

The home game against Stanford and the road trip to Oregon are going to be very, very difficult for the Utes to win with those two teams expected to be at the top of their division.

The 'x' factor for the Utes, and for every team for that matter, is how they come together as a group. From what I hear the players have developed great chemistry this summer and the players and coaches believe they are going to surprise some people this year.

So what do you think fans, can Utah sweep the state? Can the Utes get to a bowl game? Feel free to share your thoughts and expectations.

- Lya Wodraska

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