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One National Media Member Has Utah Football Inside Their Way-Too-Early Top 10 For 2024

Jan 18, 2024, 1:14 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – We aren’t even out of the first month of 2024 and already the national talking heads are making way-too-early Top 25 projections for the upcoming college football season.

One national media member in particular went bold and put Kyle Whittingham’s Utah football team inside their Top 10.

Fox Sports analyst Joel Klatt was pretty unapologetic about putting the Utes within his way-too-early Top 10. (Other than apologizing for perhaps putting them too low.)

There are certainly reasons for optimism about the 2024 Utes along with some unknowns that could cast some doubt. We will dive into all of that along with why Klatt is so high on Utah football as things currently stand in January of 2024.

What Joel Klatt Had To Say About Utah Football In 2024

It is no secret that Klatt is high on the Utes and has been for some time. Just last season he had high hopes for Utah football (for good reason) until injuries became too much to overcome.

Klatt is going into 2024- at least early on with many of the same beliefs in the Utes as 2023.

“I should probably apologize, because, you know what? This is probably too low,” Klatt said. “Utah is No. 8. Utah is going to be a formidable team, if not one of the best teams in the country next year. Nobody wants to talk about Utah, but as you know and as I’ve said to you- death, taxes, and Utah football. Those are things you can rely on. Cam Rising comes back- highly experienced. This is his 137th year of college football. They get Kuithe back at tight end. They are going to be fine on the defensive side. In the new Big 12- they will be favored to win that conference and if they do, they will not only make the Playoff, but have one of those coveted Top 4 seeds and a BYE in the first round. This is a year where Utah could make some huge in-roads toward competing for a National Championship.”

Joel Klatt’s Full Way-Too-Early Top 10

  1. Georgia
  2. Ohio State
  3. Oregon
  4. Texas
  5. Alabama
  6. Ole Miss
  7. Michigan
  8. Utah
  9. Notre Dame
  10. Penn State

That’s some mighty fine company to be in.

A Quick Look At Where Other Outlets Have Utah Football For 2024

Klatt so far has put Utah football the highest in his way-too-early Top 25 while others have put the Utes in more of the low teen-range to start.

A few things to consider here.

Most of these other rankings came out before Utah wrapped up their work in NCAA Transfer Portal ahead of spring ball. (At least as much as one can wrap up a roster these days).

These rankings also happened before Nick Saban retired, Kalen DeBoer moved from Washington to Alabama, Jedd Fisch moved from Arizona to Washington, and Brent Brennan moved from San Jose State to Arizona.

Basically, a lot of chaos has taken place with coaching changes and subsequent roster movement that may or may not change some minds.

Finally, it’s very important to remember these prognostications are meant to be fun looks ahead to what could be, and not outright law.

  • Stewart Mandel, The Athletic- No. 11
  • Max Chadwick, ProFootball Focus- No. 12
  • Dennis Dodd, CBS Sports- No. 13
  • Mark Schlabach, ESPN- No. 13
  • Nick Bromberg, Yahoo Sports- No. 14
  • Paul Meyerberg & Erick Smith, USA Today- No. 16
  • Chris Hummer, Brad Crawford, Bud Elliott, Brandon Marcello, & Cody Nagel, 247Sports- No. 16

Three Reasons To Believe The Early Optimism For Utah Football In 2024

  1. Utah football’s returning talent. Yes, the Utes have lost some talent- mostly to the NFL, but a few pieces to the NCAA Transfer Portal as well. (Who hasn’t?) The point is, Utah has done a pretty good job of retaining their key core (quarterback Cam Rising, tight end Brant Kuithe, running back Micah Bernard, defensive tackle Junior Tafuna, cornerback Zemaiah Vaughn, etc.) which is not easy in this current climate of college football. That in and of itself is worth a lot. Especially when that core has been largely responsible for your recent successes. They know the expectations and understand what it takes to get there.
  2. Utah football has been doing this for a while. Love the Utes, hate the Utes. Doesn’t matter. What can’t be denied is Utah football under Kyle Whittingham has figured out how to go from being a high-level G5 program with some big moments, to a respectable P5 program that consistently kept other p5s on their toes, to a budding premier P5 program that is expected to perform year in and year out. Anyone that has paid attention knows the Utes have been in this conversation pretty consistently since 2019 and that doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon.
  3. The Utes have done a good job addressing needs through the NCAA Transfer Portal. We all know it. The portal giveth, and it can taketh away. The Utes have been pretty effective since the portal has become a thing at utilizing it to make their roster better without having to heavily rely on it. That’s not an easy task. Utah needed some DBs after several of theirs went to the NFL or hit the portal. They came away with Kenan Johnson, Cameron Calhoun, and Alaka’i Gilman. The Utes also needed some pass catchers. They added Dorian Singer, Taeshaun Lyons, and tight end Carsen Ryan.

Three Reasons To Pump The Breaks On Utah Football’s Early Optimism For 2024

  1. Injuries and recoveries. Utah football did not enter the 2023 season healthy, and it didn’t get better for them as that season progressed. Whittingham said the Utes couldn’t really pinpoint why that was. Based off of the little we know about what happened, that seems believable. You had freak accidents outside of football. Injuries that took place at practice, in games, and on a mixture of different playing surfaces. Knee injuries, foot injuries, shoulder injuries, and head injuries, along with a team-wide flu just for fun. It was painful to watch and report on, but hard to say there was any obvious correlation you can pinpoint to try and prevent it which leads to the question- could it happen again? Not likely, but until you get going it’s hard to say. Then you have guys like Rising, Kuithe, and Logan Fano with pretty significant injuries that can be tough to come back from and look the same as you did pre-injury. That isn’t to say they can’t look the same or better than before, but again, that is something that is hard to know until you are in the middle of it. It’s also a factor that as we saw last year, could greatly change the trajectory of the Utes’ season.
  2. Unknown territory. Here is the thing. Moving from the Pac-12 to the Big 12 is not the same jump as moving from the Mountain West Conference to the Pac-12. Not being rude, it’s just a fact. Utah has already done the hard part of a conference transition and they were wildly successful at it too. That doesn’t mean there isn’t the possibility of a learning curve though when dealing with a majority of teams you have no history or familiarity with. However, it is also important to note that if we are going to use that argument against Utah, we also have to use that argument for the entire conference too. Just like the Utes don’t know the Big 12, the Big 12 also don’t know Utah. It’s a two-way street and we will see who handles it better.
  3. How do the portal additions blend with the Utah core? Big ups to the Utah staff for bringing in solid athletes to help fill in holes and address needs. They brought in some serious talent and there is no denying that. However, talent doesn’t always equate to success. That talent has to work well with your core group and become part of the team. USC and Colorado have been recent examples of bringing in upgraded talent, but it not working well together. It happens. Whittingham and crew to this point have been very good at finding guys who become part of the team and blend in seamlessly. Doesn’t mean there isn’t a risk of it finally not happening. Again, much like with the injuries and recoveries, it’s hard to know what you are dealing with until you are in the middle of it.

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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One National Media Member Has Utah Football Inside Their Way-Too-Early Top 10 For 2024