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Utah Utes Preview – 2014

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Utah Utes Preview – 2014

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Reminder for first time readers: The CFBMatrix is built on simplicity. For predictions and previews I use only my trends and rankings of Talent, Location (schedule) and Coaching. T.L.C.


While transferring between Big 5 conferences has shown to have nearly zero effect on recruiting over time, the change from a mid-major to a Big 5conference has an immediate impact. Utah is certainly one of the programs that have reaped the benefits of acceptance into the Pac 12. From 2002 through 2009, the Utes never cracked the top 58 and their average class was No. 73. From 2010 through 2013, since being accepted into the Pac 12, their class rank has not been less than 42 and the average was No. 38. That is right in line with Arizona and Oregon State. However, their No. 66 class this year was a huge red flag. Not so much for this year, but more so for the three seasons after this one. For the 2014 predictions, I have the Utes’ team talent ranked at No. 47 in the country and No. 5 in the Pac 12 South. Their returning starter productions is right in line with the conference metrics with 72 percent of key offensive and 58 percent of key defensive production. My biggest concern, at least early in the schedule, is the single returning offensive lineman starter from 2013.


At plus-1.17 game per year, coach Kyle Whittingham is ranked at No. 17 in the country. This number has been regressing a bit over the last couple of seasons as he is just plus-.67 over the last three years. At home, he is just plus-1 over six years and zero over the last three; so basically he wins at home at the rate the CFB Matrix has predicted. He wins nearly 80 percent of the time at home, when I pick him to win but just under 70 percent on the road when picked to win. His strength is finding wins both at home and on the road, when picked to lose. To gain that extra game per season and get to bowl eligibility, he needs to get his winning rate when picked to win above 80 percent. The best coaches are winning when they are picked to win in the CFB Matrix over 90 percent of the time.

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I like this non-conference, pre-season type start with Idaho State at home and Fresno State at home. Win, win and a 2-0 start. Do not even try to convince me that Fresno State should, would or could be a challenge. This is a must win for the Utes going into the Week 3 bye.

Why Utah chooses to go play at the Big House against Michigan in week 4 is beyond me. There is absolutely nothing to gain in Ann Arbor. Pain, injury odds and a very likely loss are all reasons not to take on the Wolverines. It is not like this schedule isn’t tough enough. The Utes already finish with five of 9nine on the road, but someone thought, let’s make it 6 of 10 and play a very powerful team on the road. It’s a game they could pull out, as I am not sold on coach Brady Hoke, but at a likely very physical cost. They have lost just one home game in the last three years, so I’ll take Utah to fall to 2-1. They return home to Rice-Eccles to meet the Cougars. I’d take Wazzu in the Palouse, but the home field is the kicker. The Utes must win to keep bowl hopes alive. I take them to pull it off this week but not next week. UCLA at home under Mora wins over 90 percent of the time. The Utes drop their record to 3-2 going into their last bye week.

After taking on two of three on the road after the first bye, the Utes get a roadie coming off the bye and four of their last seven are outside of Utah. That reminds me: Why are they not playing BYU? The Cougars have a terrible schedule this year so what made this rivalry fall apart? That is dumb. My buddy Mitch, who wrote the insider piece for me on BYU, said that Dr. Hill felt it was too much to ask of Utah to take on UM and BYU. And nine conference games with five on the road when nearly all out-talent you it’s too much? Michigan is so much bigger and more physical than BYU. This is a very poor scheduling decision by Utah. Those non-conference games are for wins, experience and bowl eligibility in the Pac 12. The nine conference games give plenty of schedule strength and for a bottom half recruiter in a conference, there is little to no chance of a playoff. Why risk the wins? It hurt more than just one game; it physically drains you for the next as well.

The last half of the season after the bye the Utes travel to Oregon State. If this was at home, I would take the Utes. Their talent levels are very similar, but I lean to the coaching and home field as the tipping point for this pick. It is a trap game as well, if favored, as Utah can look past this one very easily to the home game against USC. The Utes drop under .500 for the first time this year, as the Trojans get by them in Week 9.

Week 10 brings another bad break in the scheduling. First it is like-talented Oregon State on the road, now it is Arizona State in Tempe. The Utes fell apart in the second half at home against the Sun Devils last year and I don’t like them to win on the road in Sun Devil Stadium this year. The best odds for a win on the road might be a split with the ASU and OSU games. The next two offer little shelter. Oregon at home is exhausting after two of the last three on the road and the following week it is a rematch with Stanford but in Palo Alto. The Farm is a much safer haven for Coach Shaw and the Trees than on the road. Utah loses both to drop to 3-7. If the +1 coach effect game or better was to happen they need to be a 4 or 5 wins at this point.

The last two games should, and likely must, be wins. The schedule favors the Utes, finally, as they get the Wildcats at home in Salt Lake City. Talent is very even, coaching edge goes to Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, but the home field is my kicker. Lastly at Colorado is another win. To be even close to bowl eligible, the Utes must take care of business in the first two weeks and the last two weeks. With no positive coach effect, I have them at 5-7. +1 game anywhere they get to 6-6 but this schedule is not forgiving. It would be ironic that scheduling Michigan instead of BYU nets no bowl and the great extra practices and exposure it provides. My favorite number is 5.5 for the Utes and a tie for 4th or worse in the Pac 12.

Dave’s Quick and Dirty CFBMatrix Preview:

The Utes have a higher roster and recruiting ranking in the CFB Matrix for 2014 against five teams to set their talent/schedule baseline at 5-7. They get plus-1 game at home and adjust down minus-1 game on the road for a 5-7 record on the second filter. Lastly the coach effect is almost plus-1 game per season. This puts the Utes at six wins and bowl eligible though my favorite number to just be close is 5.5.

2014 Win Loss Schedule Pattern

W, W, bye, L, W, L, bye, L, L, L, L, L, W, W  Record projected 5-7- 5th

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