To answer this question, you have to ask yourself, are you a BCS purist or a Mid-Major sympathizer?
The BCS purists are going to say that there is no way in hell a non-BCS team can join a major conference and expect to come out with a winning record. The competition is exponentially tougher from top-to-bottom and gearing up to play huge games week-in and week-out will take its toll by mid-October.
On the other hand, the mid-major sympathizer believes that there has been a “flattening” in the world of college football and that these mid-major powerhouses can recruit and play against ANY team.
While Utah’s undefeated seasons deserve respect, handling a grueling Pac-12 schedule will be a daunting task unlike anything they have ever experienced. With their offense a little suspect this spring and a shaky secondary that will be under fire the entire year, the Utes could be walking into a burning ring a fire covered in gasoline.
However, Utah pulled a pretty sympathetic inaugural schedule. Their toughest game is their first ever in the Pac-12 on Sept. 9th, playing the Trojans in Southern California. This matchup has the makings of a blood bath.
From there on out, the Utes’ Pac-12 schedule takes a slight dive in difficulty. Although Washington and Arizona State should cause extreme troubles for Utah, these games are slated to be played in Salt Lake City.
To make things even better for Utah, they get to play arguably the two easiest teams from the North Division. With the recent decline of both California and Oregon State, the Utes couldn’t have asked for a better draw in their first BCS season.
The sympathizer in me wants to root for the underdog and say that Utah will surprise the conference like Arizona State did when it joined in 1978. The BCS purist in me knows that a handful of these mid-level Pac-12 teams will rudely welcome the former BCS-bowl Cinderella.
Utah should notch victories against Washington State and Oregon State and will most likely lose against USC and Arizona State. Washington, Arizona, and even Cal should give the Utes fits, and those games will come down to the wire. Utah has a slight, pre-season edge over UCLA and Colorado, but by this point into the season, the Utes might be missing their digs back at their old conference.
Utah’s 2011 Conference Record Prediction: 4-5