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2008 Mountain West Coference Football Preview: #2 Utah Utes

#9 San Diego State


#7 Air Force

#6 Wyoming

#5 Colorado State

#4 New Mexico

#3 TCU

Is this the year that Utah wins a conference title? This team has the most returning talent since the 2004 team that went 12-0 and won the Fiesta Bowl. For Utah to reach its expectations they need to not have mental lapses and lose to teams they should not, anyone remember the 27-0 drubbing they suffered to UNLV. The Utes finished strong once they had Brian Johnson healthy and were a 4th and 19 play against BYU to win the Holy War. Staying healthy is the key for Utah who lost their top three offensive players for significant time last year.

Offense: It all starts with Brian Johnson at the quarterback position. This is his last year to prove that 2005 was not a fluke and a chance to show college football that he can stay injury free. Johnson has the speed and throwing ability to run the spread option effectively, and as we have seen in years past when Johnson is out the play book shrinks dramatically. The concerns with Johnson at quarterback, beside health, has been at times his decision making and that when he runs the option he does not attack the defensive line consistently.

Running back was hit hard last year with star transfer Matt Asiata who broke his leg on his fourth carry and was out for the year, Asiata was granted a medical redshirt. Then came in Darrell Mack who was suppose to redshirt but ended gaining over 1,200 yards to save the Utes season. Mack become the first back since Quinton Ganther in 2005 to gain 1,000 yards. With Asiata fully healthy and Mack back for me the Utah running game will have a very good one-two punch in the backfield, and look for both to be on the field at the same time to be involved in the passing game as well.

The third major injury was to Brent Casteel who plays wide receiver, is involved in the running game, and moonlights in the return game. Casteel is the teams play maker as he can line up in the backfield, handled end arounds and has perfected the inside slant to make big plays after the catch. With Casteel back he will be a change of pace in the running game and should be the teams play maker. Another receiver to watch out for his Brandon Godfrey who is the teams most sure handed receiver and possession guy. He did have 54 catches to lead the team and should do the same this next year.

Defense: The main concern for the defense is the front seven with the Utes losing all conference players on a line that gave up 3.9 per carry, it does not look good. The same thing was said last year with the young secondary, but that turned out quite well especially with defensive play maker Robert Johnson in the secondary. With Gary Anderson the deffensive coordinator and head coach Kyle Whittingham who held the position prior will make the defense work.

Line backers is another concern with two starters who graduated leaves only Junior Stevenson Sylvester as the lone starter. Nai Fotu will be one of the replacements to start, during last year Fotu had a lot of playing time while getting 11 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble as a freshman. The other spot will be former walk on Mike White who earned a scholarship in January and saw action in 12 games last year.

The only concern is the defensive line and somewhat at linebackers, but if you look the past of Utah defenses then there should be minimal worries for Ute fans.

8/30 @ Michigan
9/06 UNLV
9/13 @ Utah State
9/20 @ Air Force
9/27 Weber State
10/02 Oregon State
10/11 @ Wyoming
10/18 Colorado State
11/01 @ New Mexico
11/06 TCU
11/15 @ San Diego State
11/22 No. 16 Brigham Young

Lock it up... @Utah State, Weber State, Colorado State

50/50... @Michigan, UNLV, @Air Force, Oregon State, @Wyoming, @New Mexico, TCU, @ San Diego State, BYU

No chance... NONE

Projected Record: 10-2