Utah football: Utes get down to business in the Pac-12
Last year it seemed as if the Utah Utes couldn't do anything Pac-12 related without a parade or some sort of ceremony.
There were presentations with Pac-12 officials, celebrations with fans and boosters and lots of "The first time for...."
At times, Utah's first go in the Pac-12 had so much surrounding hoopla that the football games seemed just another piece of the party entertainment.
That isn't the case this year as the Utes, still relatively new to the Pac-12, are taking a 'been there, done that let's get down to business," attitude into the 2012 season.
"Last year there was so much whooping and hollering about the Pac-12," defensive lineman Trevor Reilly said. "This year we are excited but we are used to it. It's like a birthday party after your Sweet 16 you know? It's not as big of a deal as that. You only have one of those."
For the Utes, their 'mundane' business is going after that Pac-12 championship.
The Utes predicted their first foray into a BCS conference would be difficult, but no one could have imagined the wild turn of events that the season became.
The Utes dropped their first four league games to become easy pickings for national stories that perhaps they weren't ready for the big leagues after all.
Then the Utes, without veteran quarterback Jordan Wynn, reeled off four straight wins to give them an outside chance of reaching the Rose Bowl.
Unfortunately, three missed kicks by Coleman Petersen were the low-lights in a home loss to Colorado, a team that hadn't won a road game in 23 straight tries.
The way things shook out, the Utes would have gone to the Rose Bowl, a near miss that still hurts the Utes.
"We want that chance again," center Tevita Stevens said. "What happened last year is definitely in the back of our minds, but we are focusing on the future."
Utah was picked to finish second in the south behind USC, which plays in Salt Lake City on Oct. 4. Home-field advantage, combined with renewed excitement in the team's offensive potential have the Utes feeling good about their chances of winning the division.
The defense should be the team's overall strength, but a healthy quarterback and playmakers such as running back John White, receiver DeVonte Christopher and several tight ends make the Utes believe they have the firepower they need to succeed against the Pac-12.
The experience of going through the league helps too.
Save the parades for later, the Utes believe, now it's all about taking care of business on the field.
"It's the second time around so we know a lot more what to expect," quarterback Jordan Wynn said. "Me especially, I have a lot of goals for this year and I think we have a good team."
Date Opponent Location Kickoff TV
Aug. 30 (Thu.) Northern Colorado Salt Lake City 5:15 p.m. Pac-12 Network Utes are 2-0 against the season-opening opponent, with the wins coming in 1936 and 1937.
Sept. 7 (Fri.) at Utah State Logan, Utah, 6 p.m. ESPN2 USU hasn't beaten the Utes since 1997. The Aggies will be even more motivated since Utah bought its way out of future games.
Sept. 15 BYU Salt Lake City 8 p.m. ESPN2 Utah's 54-10 win over BYU a year ago was its most lopsided in 89 years.
Sept. 22 at Arizona State Tempe, Ariz. TBA Jon Hays was 18-of-30 for 199 yards and a touchdown and threw three INTs in Utah's 35-14 loss last year.
Sept. 29 BYE
Oct. 4 (Thu.) USC Salt Lake City 7 p.m. ESPN With USC expected to contend for a national title, this should be the biggest game of the year. Utah's last win was in 2001.
Oct. 13 at UCLA Los Angeles, Calif. TBA Utes are 0-5 in Los Angeles. Their last visit to the Rose Bowl was a 31-10 loss to the Bruins in 2006.
Oct. 20 at Oregon State Corvallis, Ore. TBA John White rushed for a career-high 205 yards last season.
Oct. 27 California Salt Lake City TBA Utah's 34-10 loss to Cal a year ago was one of the worst in coach Kyle Whittingham's career.
Nov. 3 Washington State Salt Lake City TBA Coleman Petersen kicked a game-winning kick from 38 yards out to give Utah an overtime victory.
Nov. 10 at Washington Seattle, Wash. TBA The Utes have never beaten the Huskies, trailing in the series 0-7.
Nov. 17 Arizona Salt Lake City TBA A 2005 victory, the first of three in a row, was coach Kyle Whittingham's first win.
Nov. 23 (Fri.) at Colorado Boulder, Colo. 1 p.m. TBD Three missed field goals gave Colorado its first road win in 24 attempts last year.
Utah season outlook
Returning starters • (9 offense, 7 defense, 2 kickers)
Will succeed if • All the attention is going to be on Utah's offense, but the real secret to Utah's success is its defense. How many times have the Utes won games because their defense played heroically? Utah fans probably have lost count. Getting Star Lotulelei back was big for the Utes, but good play in the secondary is a must.
Trouble looms if • The Utes have grand plans for their offense, but what if Jordan Wynn and the other quarterbacks spend more time running for their life than running or throwing for yards if the line can't protect them? Such a scenario could happen with young, untested players along the line. Wynn says he can run if he has to, and he just might have to do so if the line is more like a sieve than a wall.
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