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What Is Wrong With Utah Football?

The Utes were (8-0) ranked No. 5 in the BCS Standings and ESPN's College GameDay was on hand for a game that could vault Utah to 3rd in the BCS Standings, just outside of national championship contention.

That was just 12 days ago.  How quickly things can change.

Utah now ranked No. 23 is fighting for their lives to stay in the Top 25 and play in the Las Vegas Bowl.  They went from offensive juggernaut scoring over 40 points per game, to a team that put up a measly 10 combined points in their previous two games.

What is wrong?

Lets look at the statistics.  Through eight games, Utah was 3rd in the nation in scoring averaging 45.25 points per game.  They averaged 449.63 yards per game.  Passing was Utah's strength averaging 258.13 yards per game, but the rushing attack was also strong at 190.5 yards per game.

In Utah's past two games, they are averaging five points per game.  The offense is averaging just 232 yards per game, 171 through the air and 61 on the ground.

Through eight games, Utah's defense ranked sixth allowing just 267.75 yards per game.  They also ranked sixth in scoring defense allowing just 14.2 points per game.

Against TCU and Notre Dame, Utah allowed an average of 407 yards per game and 37.5 points per game.  Against Notre Dame actually held fairly close to their average defensively in total yards.  I wouldn't say the defense is a problem.

Obviously the offense has been VERY inefficient.  You can try to attribute the struggles against TCU to their No. 1 ranked defense but Notre Dame ranks in the bottom half of the country in defense. 

Everyone is pointing the finger at Jordan Wynn for the offense's woes.  Through the two games he has struggled going 40/74 for 342 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.  He has clearly struggled and appears to lack confidence.

In each game, Utah fell behind early and had to abandon the run game and try to come back through the air.  Jordan Wynn was unable to lead the team back and struggled with the pressure.  Teams were able to drop more players into coverage making it even harder on Wynn.

They say "a team goes as its quarterback goes."  That may be the case for Utah, but it isn't only Jordan Wynn playing bad.  The running game has been stuffed, the offensive line has struggled and receivers have dropped balls.  They have lost the turnover margin 6-1 over the two games.  It is a problem across the board offensively.

"We need to get back in sync offensively," Kyle Whittingham said in his press conference.  "One touchdown in the last nine quarters of play just isn't going to cut it.  That is our most pressing issue right now is to get that solved."

Many are saying that Terrance Cain should start against San Diego State.  He is (8-1) as a starter with his only loss on the road to Pac-10 champion Oregon last season.  When he played in two games this season he was extremely efficient and led Utah to blowout victories.  But is he a better quarterback than Wynn?

Wynn when playing to his full potential is the better quarterback.  The question is not whether Cain is better but, does playing Cain over a depleted Jordan Wynn give Utah a better chance to win?  It is a question the coaching staff is going to have to answer as they face another tough opponent in San Diego State.

I'd expect Wynn to start against the Aztecs for one last chance to get things together.  If he has another poor start, I think the coaching staff will finally take their chances with Terrance Cain.  Utah can not afford to lose a third straight game and fall out of the Top 25.  Confidence and especially recruiting would take a major it.

The problem just isn't quarterback play though so Utah will have to rebound across the board to right the ship.  Leadership is key for Utah right now as they are facing tremendous adversity.

"First, we can't feel sorry for ourselves. No one feels sorry for us. We've got to man up and fight our way through adversity," Whittingham said.  "Adversity is all around us, and like I said, there is one way out - put our nose to the ground and start working. Mentally, our leadership has to step up more than ever. When everything is going well, it's easy to be a leader. When the chips are really down, you find out what you're made of and what kind of leadership that you have."

Whittingham has faced tough situations before.  After starting the season (1-3) and falling 27-0 to UNLV in 2007, Utah rebounded winning eight of their next nine games.  In his first season in 2005, Utah dropped three straight games but rebounded winning four of the last five.

Whittingham will have a tougher task this time as they face a much improved San Diego State team on the road.  A team that has lost three games, all on the road, by a total of 11 points.  Two of the three losses are to teams in the Top 25.  

The Utes will have their hands full on Saturday.  Can they rebound and save their season?  Ute fans aren't so confident.  Hopefully their team is.