The Pac-12 Primer will be an ongoing project for me this season. In an effort to better prepare and educate Arizona Wildcats fans for the imminent arrival of the ‘new guys’, Utah and Colorado.
Recently, I contacted Jeremy Mauss of SB Nations Mountain West Connection about the Utah Utes’ impending move to the Pac-10 (12). He graciously agreed to answer some questions, and his responses are below.
1. What do you think of the possibility of Utah being in the Pac-12 North with Oregon, Oregon St., Washington, Washington St., and Colorado?
JM- While it is an upgrade no matter what division coming from the Mountain West, it does somewhat hurt their California recruiting that is already strong. On the other hand this division is easier to win, because in my opinion only Oregon is a team that would be considered better then Utah, Oregon State being a tossup and the rest Utah would be considered better. However, with the talked about pod system divisions do not seem to matter since there could be years that the pod of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and Arizona State would not play a full slate of games within their division.
2. What conference record do you think Utah will finish with, assuming they join the Pac-12 next season?
JM- Without seeing a schedule it is hard to predict their schedule. I think Utah will be able to compete right away for the conference title (maybe a little homerish for me). I alluded to this in the first question, but I think the only teams that would be considered better then Utah are Oregon and USC. However, I think Stanford, Arizona, and Oregon State are all pretty similar with the edge going to where the game is at; as for the rest I think Utah is better then the rest of the league.
The Utes will have a junior quarterback in Jordan Wynn, their defense will be more experienced since this year they have a brand new front seven, they only lose one key wide receiver in Jereme Brooks, but they do lose their top two running backs. I think Utah will be able to compete with everyone, but there will be far less cupcake games on the schedule compared to the Mountain West, so injuries and depth could be an issue at some positions.
If I had to say a number I could see the Utes going anywhere from 6-3 to 8-1. It just depends how many games they play out of Oregon, Arizona, USC, or Stanford and where they play those teams.
3. Do you believe that Utah will continue the Pac-10 tradition of scheduling tough non-conference games each year, even though they will likely only get 3 non-con games?
JM- I think so, because Utah will be playing BYU every year who is a quality opponent and at least in the short term the schedule will be tough. In 2011 they have maybe BYU, but for sure Iowa State, Boise State, and Pitt. In 2012 they again have Boise State, BYU, and Utah State. Utah State has been a rivalry game that has been played over 100 years and probably will continue, and that game will probably be their only cupcake on the schedule. The third non-conference game is the only question if they will play a former Mountain West team or venture out east to find more formidable opponents. I doubt Utah will play any FCS teams, because they have played a few in the past decade.
4. Who is the most likely candidate for a 'rival' for Utah in the Pac-12?
JM- I guess Colorado since they used to play every year up until the 50's or 60's, and because of proximity. Maybe, the former WAC schools in Arizona or Arizona State by the older Utah fans. Even if it is Colorado I do not expect it to be that strong of a rival, because Utah's rival will always be BYU.
5. What are Utah fans like when they travel? Loud? Arrogant? Respectful? Fun? Rowdy?
JM- The only game I have traveled to a road game was for the 2005 Fiesta Bowl and those fans were pumped and excited to be there; there was little of being arrogant because Utah was so good that year. Ute fans in general are a good bunch who like to tailgate and are not disrespectful or rowdy (well unless it is against BYU), but every fan base has those obnoxious fans that make the whole group look bad. I don't think Ute fans will be arrogant in the Pac-12, because they are the new guys, but I do expect a lot of Ute alums to be at road games in California which will be good to have a decent showing on the road.
6. What is your biggest concern with the Utes first season in the Pac-12?
JM- The schedule that will not have easy games against some bad teams. This year, the Utes have rested a few key players with nagging injuries during a stretch of game against UNLV, New Mexico, and San Jose State. In the Pac-12 the only team that is down right bad is Washington State. Even the lesser teams like Washington or UCLA have good talent and are not push overs like the bottom of the Mountain West.
Depth is an issue, because Urban Meyer once said, while at Utah. that the 2004 teams one's could play with anyone in the country, but the two's and three's could not match up with the other teams two's and three's. Utah has been able to get more depth, because of on field success and now going to the Pac-12, but the first year or two could be an issue if the injury bug bites Utah.
Many thanks to Mr. Mauss for his insight into Utah football. I’m very excited to see how the Utes perform this season. Here’s hoping that they exit the Mountain West with the conference championship in tow.