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Next Three Weeks Define The 2019 Utes With Championship On The Line

Utah Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley (1) celebrates after running the ball 15 yards for a touchdown, putting the Utes up 21-13 over the Washington State Cougars after the PAT, at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Kyle Whittingham and the University of Utah are hitting on all cylinders following the 52-7 dismantling of the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis, Oregon, but the next three weeks are vital for the Utes.

Tyler Huntley is playing like a Heisman dark horse, Zack Moss is healthy and running 91 yards for touchdowns while the defense is suffocating anyone that comes into its path of destruction. However, the next three weeks will be telling for the Utes and will likely determine their outcome this season.

Arizona State comes to town this weekend, followed by a sturdy California mob before Utah goes on the road to take on the Washington Huskies, the Utes have only beaten the Huskies once in Seattle, that victory came in 2015.

Utah’s opponents over the next three weeks are a combined 14-5, compared to their final three games where their opponents are 8-10. The upcoming three-game stretch will define Utah’s season. If they can go 3-0, their chances of winning the Pac-12 South increase drastically. If they drop a game or two, their chances dwindle.

ASU Has Owned Utah In The Past

It all starts this weekend when the seventeenth best team in the country comes to town, the Arizona State Sun Devils. A team that is led by true freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels, although when you watch Daniels play, you would never know it is his first year at the helm.

Daniels is playing more like a redshirt senior, and no better example of that came this past weekend when he took the Sundevils on a 10 play, 75 yard drive that took just 1 minute and 56 seconds off the clock and ended with an 18 yard touchdown run for Daniels to give the Sundevils a 38-34 lead with just 34 seconds left against the Washington State Cougars.

The Utes have opened as a 13.5 point favorite against Arizona State despite the fact that the Sun Devils have won the last two encounters and lead the all-time series 22-8. A win this weekend would go a long way in the hopes of winning the Pac-12 South.

Don’t Count The Wounded Bears Out, Just Yet

The Cal Bears have lost their starting quarterback Chase Garbers to a shoulder injury. He will be sidelined indefinitely.

The Bears, who are led by their formidable defense, are now significantly worse on offense and seem to be a much easier matchup for the Utes in two weeks’ time.

Although, their defense is good enough to keep them in games, which is why the matchup on the 26 of October is still one that could haunt Utah if they are not up for the challenge.

Utah’s Biggest Road Test Awaits

Finally, the Washington Huskies await the Utes in what will be the last “real” test of the season. The Huskies may not be as talented as they have been in the past but they are still a very good and dangerous football team.

Chris Peterson has had the advantage over Kyle Whittingham in the past, something tells me that this year could be different, though.

Utah has only been able to beat Washington once in Seattle, that victory came in 2015. Every year the games between the Utes and Huskies seem to be very contentious and highly competitive. I see no reason why this year would be different.

Your Guess Is As Good As Mine

I do not know how the following three weeks will pan out. Utah could go undefeated or they could lose two of the three and eliminate themselves from any hope of being the championship game. What I do know is that this Utah team is playing its best football of the season.

The offense is explosive and has weapons at every position. Tyler Huntley is playing his best football in a Utah uniform and has proven to be one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country. Zack Moss is arguably the best running back in the Pac 12. Utah’s wide receiver group has never been as deep as it is right now. The offensive line is running over opponents and the tight ends run like receivers and block like offensive lineman.

While defensively, the Utes are stout. They are ranked second in the conference for total defense, only behind Oregon, but not by much. The defensive line has been as good as advertised prior to the season. Linebackers Devin Lloyd and Francis Bernard are playing like all-Pac-12 players. Jaylon Johnson may be the first cornerback taken off the board in next year’s NFL Draft and the safety group, led by Julian Blackmon, does not let anything over the top.

There are very few weaknesses on this team. Surprisingly the worst unit on the football team is their special teams, something Utah has dominated over recent years.

Utah is in a position where they could run the table and end the regular season with an 11-1 record.