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Utes Receive High Praise In Pac-12 Preseason Predictions

(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – With three months remaining until the start of the 2019 college football season, Athlon Sports compiled every prediction for the Pac-12 conference and they seem to really like the Utes.

Mitch Light, Steve Lassan and Mark Ross of Athlon Sports released their predictions for the Pac-12, just like they do with every other conference.

They listed the best unit ratings among position groups, record predictions in each division as well as a bunch of awards, which includes Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year. They also predicted the Coach of the Year, Coach on the Hot Seat, Top Freshman, Top Newcomer, Sleeper Team, Key Position to Watch, Best Coordinator Hire, Hardest Team to Evaluate, Coach on the Rise, Must-See Game, Breakout Player and Comeback Player.

Unit Rankings

Athlon Sports ranked the top six units at running back, wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs.

They have Utah ranked No. 1 for running backs and defensive line, No. 2 defensive backs, No. 5 offensive line and linebackers and No. 6 wide receivers. USC was rated the No. 1 wide receiver group in the conference, Oregon was predicted as the top offensive line and Cal took the No. 1 spots for linebackers and defensive backs.

Utah is the only Pac-12 school that is ranked in the top six in all six position groups.

Record Predictions

They listed the projected records by their divisions with conference and overall records. In the north division, Washington is picked to finish first with an 11-2 overall record and 7-2 in the Pac-12. Oregon is second followed by Washington State, Stanford, California and Oregon State.

In the south division, Utah is predicted to win the south division and end the season with a 10-3 overall record and 7-2 mark in the Pac-12. UCLA is picked to finish second, followed by USC, Arizona State, Arizona and Colorado.

If the predictions come to fruition, it will be a rematch of last year’s Pac-12 Championship game. Athlon predicted the Huskies to win the conference title for the second straight season.

Individual Awards

Ross, Lassan and Light all predicted Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert to take the Offensive Player of the Year award, while Lassan pegged Utah defensive end Bradlee Anae to run away with the Defensive Player of the Year award. Both Light and Ross have Cal linebacker Evan Weaver taking the award.

Both Lassan and Light have Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham to be named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, while Ross went with Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal.

They all went with USC head coach Clay Helton as the Coach on the Hot Seat.

Top freshman went to Oregon defensive lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux by Lassan and Light. Arizona State quarterback and Utah recruit Jayden Daniels was selected by Light.

The Top Newcomer award went unanimously to Washington State quarterback and Washington transfer Jacob Eason.

UCLA was predicted to be the Sleeper Team by Lassan and Light with Ross taking Arizona.

All three guys from Athlon went with different position groups to watch. Light chose USC’s offensive line, Lassan went with Oregon’s wide receivers and Ross projected Washington’s linebackers and defensive backs.

The unanimous vote for best coordinator hire was Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who is in his second stint with the Utes after Troy Taylor left the program to become the head coach at Sacramento State.

USC is the hardest team to evaluate according to both Lassan and Light, while Ross chose Colorado.

The coach on the rise prediction from the trio of Athlon Sports writers went in different directions. Lassan picked Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, Light chose Justin Wilcox – head coach of California and Ross went with Cristobal.

The must-see game was favored by the Utah game at Washington on November 2. Ross picked a Washington contest as well but their home game against Oregon.

USC linebacker Palaie Gaoteote IV was Lassan’s breakout player, while both Light and Ross chose Washington running back Salvon Ahmed.

The final prediction was the Comeback Player. Lassan predicted Washington tight end Hunter Bryant, Light picked Huskies offensive lineman Trey Adams and Ross projected Utah running back Zack Moss.