Utah Football Needs To Realign Goals In Order To Dominate Pac-12

Jan 3, 2020, 12:12 PM
Brant Kuithe #80 of the Utah Utes is tackled by Caden Sterns #7 of the Texas Longhorns in the third...
Brant Kuithe #80 of the Utah Utes is tackled by Caden Sterns #7 of the Texas Longhorns in the third quarter during the Valero Alamo Bowl at the Alamodome on December 31, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – USC, Northwestern, Oregon, Texas, and Washington all have one thing in common for Utah football during the Pac-12 era and that is losses in important games. Not only are those losses but they were at pivotal points for the Utes and head coach Kyle Whittingham.

Two of those losses were in bowl games, two were in the Pac-12 championship game and the USC loss refers to this year’s Friday night loss that saw the Utes secondary get taken advantage of against third-string Trojan quarterback Matt Fink who was chucking the ball up to Michael Pittman for a career night.

This Utah team, under Whittingham, does not have a signature win in the Pac-12, the biggest win is the road victory against a Washington team in 2019 but the Huskies ended up going 8-5. This is not to say Whittingham has done a poor job guiding the Utes from the Mountain West to the Pac-12, but fans want this team to excel and follow through with preseason hype and expectations.

The Pac-12 Is Not The Mountain West

The bowl record for Whittingham was 5-1 in the Mountain West – 6-1 to be generous as he technically was the head coach in 2004 – in the Pac-12 it is 5-2. That is still a really good record but the previous two bowl losses came after a disappointing loss in the Pac-12 title game and that loss lingered over into the bowl game.

It used to be said that a team coached by Whittingham that was given time was nearly unbeatable and his 10-3 bowl record is proof that is mostly the case.

However, KSL Sports’ Scott Mitchell pointed out that the Utes are part of the haves and no longer can play the disrespect card. They need to show up and play as they belong, especially when it matters.

“Utah is not ready for primetime and they are no longer the underdog. You have been invited to the dance, you are part of the fraternity, you are part of the good old boys club and in the Power 5,” Mitchell said. “They are in a Power 5 conference and are not an outsider anymore. Here is the best team that Utah has had since they joined the Pac-12.

“They have all of this NFL talent and really good players. There is this expectation but on top of that they didn’t get injured… they dominated every team they played except for teams that were good. So, my whole point is that they are not ready for primetime.”

If there was any year in the history of Utah football to make a case for being an elite team, even for just one year, this was it and they fell flat on their face and got embarrassed in the games that really mattered.

Why Are Utah Goals Different Than Other Pac-12 Teams?

Teams have goals with some being public and some being private. Teams will break the huddle with something specific throughout spring, fall camp and in the year. For Utah, it seems that their goals are to play hard and compete.

Whittingham thrives in saying his team is overlooked and the underdog but maybe that mindset needs to change a bit and shoot high for goals and not just feel satisfied for knocking off a superior team they face, but turn the conversation to being the favorite and wanting to go out and have teams wanting to knock you off.

The Utes need to be more confident in what their peak should be.

The Utes are in the Pac-12 and the goals should be much more than that and include winning conference championships, wanting and yearning for a Rose Bowl berth, and the goal should even include going to the College Football Playoff.

Utah has a massive leg up over where they were last decade because if the Utes are in the Pac-12 title game then a Rose Bowl and playoff berth are within reach. So, saying playing hard and competing well as primary goals doesn’t cut it for a team in a major conference.

Way back at Pac-12 media days in July, KSL Unrivaled interviewed all of these players and coaches from the league and chatting with Oregon, USC and others and their goal was to be the best in the conference.

“[Oregon and USC] are just trying to win the Pac-12 championship,” Kirry said. “It wasn’t [them saying], ‘we just want to be here and hanging out with everyone,’ but rather they have goals and they are to win the Pac-12 championship. It feels that Utah’s goals are just to be hanging out.”

Utah seems different than those programs and maybe it is a mindset that they are the new guys in the Pac-12 and came from a smaller league, but it has been nine seasons in the league and the Utes have been more than competitive. Just saying they are happy to compete and be in a major conference should be in the rearview mirror.

Now is the time to shoot for those big-time goals and be ready to take center stage in the Pac-12.

Tune into KSL’s Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast. 

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