Know Your Enemy: Week 12
Utah Utes (4-6)
(Photo credits: Desert News & Utefans.net)
The Utah Utes began their 2nd full season in the Pac12 as a team that was picked by many to be a spoiler to the USC Trojans national championship aspirations, and challenge for the Pac12 South title. Things have not gone as planned in SLC. A Week 2 loss to in-state rival, Utah State, and an early season, career-ending injury to starting QB Jordan Wynn have derailed any hopes for a story book ending for the Utes in 2012.
All is not lost for the Utes in 2012 though. Utah enters their Week 12 matchup with the Arizona Wildcats only two wins away from bowl eligibility, and still has a game to go versus the lowly Colorado Buffaloes. The Utes seem to have gained a little momentum late in the Pac12 season, winning 2 of their last 3 games following a 4 game losing streak vs some of the best in the Pac12 (ASU, USC, UCLA, & Oregon St). Utah has been very strong at home this season as well, posting an impressive 4-1 record, with their only loss coming to USC. A cold, & loud, home finale on Saturday night should have the Utes feeling good about their chances to upset the visiting Wildcats this coming weekend.
The Utah offense returned 9 starters to an offense that averaged 25 points and 311 yards per game in 2011. With a large amount of the offense returning, Utes fans had optimism that the experienced group would give the team a big boost in offensive production for the 2012 season. Injuries have hit the Utes at some key skill positions though, and the offensive improvement has been modest, with the Utes offense averaging 25.4 PPG through 10 games this season.
QB Jordan Wynn was hopeful that he had put his shoulder injuries (3 shoulder surgeries during his college career) behind him, but just two games into the season, QB Wynn went down with a shoulder injury once again. The injury prompted Wynn to retire from playing football, and instead, finish out his college career on the Utes sideline, mentoring the young QBs on the Utah roster.
QB Travis Wilson will be starting for the Utes when they face the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday night. QB Wilson has done a decent job for Utah since taking the majority of the snaps in their Week 6 matchup with UCLA. QB Wilson is 2-3 as the starter for Utah this season, and has thrown at least one interception in all five of those starts.
RB John White is the spark plug for the Utah offense. RB White rushed for over 1,500 yards last season, and has gone over the century mark four times this season. Utah is 3-1 in games that RB White rushes for over 100 yards, with the only loss coming to the Washington Huskies last weekend, in which RB White rushed for a season high 142 yards.
The Utes defense brought back seven starters from their 2011 squad, and so far in 2012, has been tough when playing at Rice-Eccles Stadium, where they are giving up only 16.4 PPG. Anchored by top NFL prospect, NT Star Lotulelei, Utah has one of the best run stopping units in the Pac12. The Utes defense has only seen one RB rush for over 100 yards in a game against them this season (Sankey Washington 162 yds).
The main reason teams choose to try and pass on the Utes defense, is the run stopping monster in the middle, NT Star Lotilelei. NT Lotilelei was selected as 1st Team All Pac12 and a Morris Award (Outstanding Pac12 Lineman) winner in 2011. NT Lotilelei has been a little inconsistent at times during the 2012 season, but much of that has to do with the constant double teams he has faced throughout the season. The 64 325lb NT Lotelelei should pose a big challenge for RB Kadeem Carey and the Wildcats offensive line this coming weekend.
- Utah has won three in a row vs the Arizona Wildcats, with the most recent being a 34-21 win in Tucson last season. The Utes Special Teams shined in that meeting, in which they were able to block two Arizona punts and stop a fake field goal attempt.
- The Utes have participated in a bowl game every season since 2002, going 8-1 in those games. They will fail to qualify for a bowl game this season if they are unable to beat Arizona and Colorado in their final 2 games.