FanHouse's 2010 Preseason College Football Poll -- No. 25 Utah
Utah has continually proven it can step up and play with the big boys of the automatic-qualifying BCS conferences. In the past two seasons, the Utes have knocked off the likes of California, Alabama, Louisville, Oregon State and Michigan. This season, the Utes will get more opportunities with a home opener against Big East favorite Pittsburgh and road dates at Iowa State and Notre Dame.
The Utes won't have to step up against bigger competition much longer. After this season Utah will be one of the big boys. This is Utah's 12th and final season in the Mountain West Conference as the Utes join the Pac-10 in 2011.
This season, the Utes, led by QB Jordan Wynn, last year's Poinsettia Bowl MVP, and senior RB Eddie Wide, the MWC's leading returning rusher, very well could be a "BCS buster" in their final go around as a non-AQ school.
Wynn arrived at Utah as a mid-year high school graduate last spring. He was a scrawny 152-pound redshirt candidate. Nine months later -- and with 43 more pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame -- he passed for 338 yards and three touchdowns, leading Utah to a 37-27 Poinsettia Bowl victory over Cal.
Wynn and Wide are among eight returning starters on an offense that averaged 37 points in Wynn's five starts. The offense will need to match that production as the Utes' defense only returns four starters.
Another bowl trip is a certainty for the Utes, who have won nine consecutive bowl games, the second-longest streak in NCAA history. However, if they're going to win their fourth MWC title since 2003, they can't stumble against TCU and BYU in a pair of huge November home games.
THE BASICS: 10-3 last year, defeated Cal 37-27 in Poinsettia Bowl. Eight starters back on offense, four starters back on defense. Coach Kyle Whittingham is 47-17 in five years at Utah.
KEY PLAYER YOU PROBABLY DON'T THINK OF AS A KEY PLAYER: CB Brandon Burton is the lone returning starter in the Utes' secondary and will be needed to anchor the defensive backfield. The 6-foot, 190-pound junior is among Utah's fastest players with a 4.3-second 40-yard dash. He'll be tested immediately in the season opener against Pitt and WR Jonathan Baldwin, one of the nation's top deep threats.
FLY IN THE OINTMENT: All of the hoopla about leaving the Mountain West for the Pac-10 puts a big bulls-eye on the Utes by their league opponents. Having to face everyone's "A-game" plus a difficult non-conference schedule could end Utah's streak of seasons with double-digit victories at two.
DON'T MISS: BYU at Utah on Nov. 27. It's the final home game for Utah as a member of the Mountain West Conference before the Utes move to the Pac-10 next season. You couldn't have scripted a better MWC finale for the Utes than against their hated rivals from Provo.
PREDICTED RECORD: 9-3
FanHouse's Utah team page with schedule