Utah Utes Football: 2015 Season Preview and Prediction


Kyle Whittingham enters his 12th season with the Utah Utes on the heels of his best season in four years, so can he build on last year’s success?

Utah had their best season since the 2010 season when Kyle Whittingham led the Utes to a 10-3 record, their third straight year with at least 10 wins, and he enters his 12th season at Utah looking to improve on last year’s 9-4 record and No. 20 ranking in the final Coaches Poll.

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Offensive Outlook

Utah had the worst passing offense in the Pac-12 last year with an average of 197.7 yards per game which resulted in Travis Wilson being replaced by Kendal Thompson twice during the regular season before he was lost with a knee injury. Wilson nearly had his career come to an early end in 2013 with an injury to an intracranial artery so you can expect some rust in his return to the field and he did but still posted respectable numbers with 18 touchdowns to only five interceptions on 60.7 percent passing.

Wilson had a huge reduction in the 16 interceptions he threw the year before so if he continues to mature as a passer and decision maker in first-year offensive coordinator Dave Christensen’s system, the Utes passing attack should make tremendous gains.

Helping in that cause is senior receiver Kenneth Scott who led the team last year with 49 receptions and was in a four-way tie for the lead with four touchdowns. He finished second to the departed Kaelin Clay with 501 yards but the other three top receivers from last year are gone, which means Jameson Field and Kenric Young and Deniko Carter have to develop in a hurry.

The offense is led by senior running back and dark horse Heisman candidate Devontae Booker after he ran for 1,512 yards and 10 touchdowns on 292 carries. He could lead the Pac-12 in rushing this year if he stays healthy and the offensive line anchored by Isaac Asiata and center Siaosi Aiono continue to improve.

Defensive Outlook

The Utes finished second in the Pac-12 in total defense, albeit a distant second to Stanford, allowing an average of 393.5 yards per game, more than 100 yards per game than the Cardinal. Utah also finished fourth in scoring defense, allowing 24.9 points per game led by the strength of the pass defense that finished second in the conference.

Losing Nate Orchard is a tough blow after he had 18.5 sacks but Hunter Dimick could build on his 10-sack campaign last year and command the attention from offensive linemen like Orchard did last year which allowed Dimick to breakout in a big way. Lowell Lotulelei should clog the running lanes as he tries to live up to the legacy of his older brother and former Utah standout Star Lotulelei.

At linebacker Jared Norris returns after leading the team with 116 tackles and finishing second to Orchard and Dimick with 13 tackles for loss. Jason Whittingham, Jason Fanaika and Gionni Paul who is returning from injury bolster the unit looking to stay much healthier than last year when this unit was crushed by injury.

The secondary is led by Dominique Hatfield and Marcus Williams but they’ll miss Eric Rowe who was the No. 47 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Justin Thomas and converted quarterback Jason Thompson round out the starters on the back end.


Utah’s passing game will lack for flash compared to their Pac-12 counterparts but if Wilson can play smart and efficient and let Booker dominate in the run game, this offense will average more than 30 points per game. The lack of proven help at receiver is a concern but the running game can lessen the load on those guys and put them in favorable third down situations to make plays.

The defense was really good last year and Orchard was second in the nation in sacks so they’ll have to replace that production to get off the field on third downs and turn it back over to the offense. I think Dimick will more than fill his shoes and be a All-Pac-12 performer.

Utah’s special teams were the best in the country last year and punter Andy Phillips and Tom Hackett return but they’ll miss Clay’s ability in the return game.

Overall, the schedule looks challenging with a pair of non-conference home games to start vs. Michigan and a 10-win Utah State team before hitting the road to play Fresno State before beginning Pac-12 play. A 3-0 start is very possible and wins should come against Cal, Oregon State, Washington and Colorado to give them at least seven wins. If they can go 2-3 in games at Oregon, vs Arizona State, at USC, at Arizona and vs UCLA they’ll match last year’s win total with a chance at 10 wins in the bowl game.

Whittingham has arguably his best team since Utah entered the Pac-12 and Utes fans should be optimistic about this season so another 5-4 conference record would be somewhat of a disappointment.

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