Utah Preview 2006

Posted Aug 7, 2006

Just when it seemed like Utah was well past the Urban Meyer days of success, just when a 6-6 season appeared almost certain, just when the Utes were about to take a step back, they blew away a strong Georgia Tech team 38-10 in the Emerald Bowl to prove that this program really can play.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

The first year under head coach Kyle Whittingham had its rocky moments, like a three-game midseason losing streak hitting the los point with a home gaffe against San Diego State, but the team showed how resilient it could be by beating archrival BYU and winning the bowl game despite losing star quarterback Brian Johnson.

While getting back to the 12-0 level of 2004 is highly unlikely anytime soon, being good enough to be the biggest bad boy in the Mountain West is very attainable with good talent all over the place along with the confidence that comes from the great finish.

Head coach: Kyle Whittingham
2nd year: 7-5
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 16, Def. 18, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 29
Ten Best Ute Players
SS Eric Weddle, Sr.
2. LB Casey Evans, Sr.
3. QB Brett Ratliff, Sr.
4. OT Tavo Tupola, Sr.
5. WR Brian Hernandez, Sr.
6. LB Joe Jiammoni, Jr.
7. DT Kelly Talavou, Sr.
8. OT Jason Boone, Jr.
9. OG Robert Conley, Soph.
10. QB Tommy Grady, Jr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: coming

9/2 at UCLA
9/9 Northern Arizona
9/16 at Utah State
9/23 at San Diego State
9/30 Boise State
10/5 TCU
10/14 at Wyoming
10/19 at New Mexico
10/28 UNLV
11/11 Colorado State
11/18 at Air Force
11/25 BYU

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record:

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/1 Arizona W 27-24
9/10 Utah State W 31-7
9/15 at TCU L 23-20 OT
9/22 Air Force W 38-35
10/1 at No Carolina L 31-17
10/8 at Colorado St L 21-17
10/15 San Diego St L 28-19
10/22 at UNLV W 42-32
11/5 Wyoming W 43-13
11/12 New Mexico L 31-27
11/19 at BYU W 41-34 OT
12/29 Emerald Bowl
Georgia Tech W 38-10

The defense returns seven starters, but where will they play? Safety Casey Evans moves to linebacker after finishing second on the team in tackles, top nose guard Kelly Talavou will move to tackle, and All-America talent Eric Weddle will move anywhere in the secondary that needs him. Those are just the high-profile moves; there are plenty of more players still trying to figure out where their homes are.

Yeah, the defense will be fine, but it's the offense that'll get people buzzing about Utah football. Even after losing several stars, including Heisman-caliber quarterback Alex Smith, the Utes still managed to finish 12th in the nation in total offense while throwing up 30 points per game.

It all starts with the quarterback situation, which is still strong even though Johnson is taking a year off to make sure his knee is healthy for 2007. The system makes stars out of smart quarterbacks, and Brett Ratliff and Tommy Grady certainly fit the mold

Utah football really is that good. It can hang around with the big boys thanks to the devastating offense, and there are enough good athletes on defense to get the job done. The expectations have been jacked up in Salt Lake City, and rightly so.

The Schedule: There's one big chance to make a national splash, and it comes right away in the opener at UCLA. If the Utes win that, then the spotlight will be on. The Mountain West opener at San Diego State might seem like a layup, but the Aztecs won last year 28-19. Playing Boise State will certainly be a fun showdown of top offenses, but it'll be hard to concentrate with the Mountain West game of the year against TCU coming up the following Thursday. Playing three of the final four games at home, including the showdown with BYU, will help title hopes.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Brett Ratliff. Brian Johnson was becoming a superstar when he went down with a torn ACL. Ratliff turned into a shocking star over the final two games of the season with wins over BYU and Georgia Tech leading the way to a battle for the right to run the high-octane attack this fall. Johnson is the better player, but he'll back next year with the knee not right yet.

Best Defensive Player: Senior SS Eric Weddle. One of the nation's best all-around defensive backs, Weddle can play any spot with tremendous speed and all-around athleticism. He's best as a corner, but he's mostly needed at safety.

Key player to a successful season: Senior RB Darryl Poston. The former USC Trojan turned into the surprise number one back after spring ball, but Mike Liti and Darrell Mack will each get their chances at the job this fall. The three have to combine to replace 1,120-yard back Quinton Ganther.

The season will be a success if ... the Utes win the Mountain West title. They get TCU, Colorado State and BYU in Rice-Eccles, and they have the talent to win the four conference road games against teams that didn't go to a bowl last year. Anything less than a championship will be a major disappointment.

Key game: Oct. 5 vs. TCU. The Horned Frogs are the better team, but the Utes are certainly good enough to get revenge after last year's 23-20 overtime loss. The winner of this game will likely be the Mountain West champion.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Penalties: Utah 92 for 762 yards - Opponents 68 for 541 yards
- Utah third quarter scoring: 102 - Utah fourth quarter scoring: 44
- Kickoff return average: Opponents 23.8 - Utah 22.1

The Last Time Utah…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Emerald Bowl vs. Georgia Tech)
…missed a bowl game…2002
…pitched a shutout…2003 (Southern Miss)
…was shutout…1993 (Arizona State)
…scored 50 points…2004 (BYU)
…went undefeated…2004
…won a conference title…2004 (MWC)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…1994 (Mike McCoy)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Quinton Ganther)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2004 (Paris Warren)
…had a first-round draft choice…2005 (QB Alex Smith)

Related Stories
Utah Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006
Utah Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006
Utah Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006

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