SALT LAKE CITY — The Utes and the Cougars face off in the annual rivalry game Saturday with a lot of question marks facing both teams. Here are five questions we ask and answer about the Utes going into the big game at Lavell Edwards Stadium this weekend.
1. What did we learn from Utah’s game at USC last week?
- The Utes belong in the Pac-12. They may not be a stereotypical Pac-12 team (because they can play defense), but they have the talent to compete in the Pac-12, almost beating one of the premiere teams in the conference.
- The offensive line is experienced but still has some work to do.
- Jordan Wynn has some bigger problems than his arm. He needs to learn how to step up in the pocket and trust his pass block instead of immediately abandoning the pocket as soon as he see the blitz coming.
2. What lingering questions do we still have about Utah?
- Is Wynn healthy? He admitted this week that he is still recovering from his shoulder surgery, but is he healthy enough to play at a Pac-12 level consistently?
- Are the Utes going to be able to establish a running game? John White was outstanding against Montana State, but lukewarm against the Trojans. Will he get back on track against the Cougars?
- Can the young secondary keep competing? The Utes’ secondary is young but talented. They did a pretty good job against Robert Woods last week, but they gave up a lot of yardage over the middle.
- Will the Ute offense be able to get the ball downfield? Utah tried to go downfield more against USC, but they did so with limited success, mostly because of Wynn’s inability to stay in the pocket. The Utes’ receivers are very talented, but Wynn has to be able to get it to them.
3. What can Utah expect from BYU this weekend?
- BYU will try and establish the running game. BYU will have to be able to run the ball to keep the Utes’ defensive line from getting after Jake Heaps on the pass rush.
- The Cougars’ defensive front seven will come after Wynn. Wynn showed that he has a hard time staying in the pocket against a pass rush. If Wynn has time, the Utes’ receivers should be able to get open against BYU’s secondary. If the Cougars are going to stop the Utes, they have to put pressure on Wynn.
- Heaps will throw it downfield more. BYU’s offensive coordinator Brandon Doman is feeling the heat, from both his fans and his head coach, who said the offense needs to throw the ball downfield more this week. Doman will definitely be trying to do so against the Utes.
4. What can we expect from Utah against the Cougars?
- The Utes will throw the ball as much as they did against the Trojans. The weakness of BYU’s defense is their secondary. Norm Chow knows that and will try to exploit that.
- Utah will stop the run. BYU has yet to get the run game on track and the Utes have one of the strongest defensive front sevens that BYU will see all year. This will not be the week the Cougars get the run game going.
- Wynn will do a better job staying in the pocket this week. Last year, in the opening game of the season against Pittsburgh, Wynn had trouble staying in the pocket. The next week, after it was drilled into his head all week, he did a much better job. Expect the same this week after Chow and the other coaches will pound it into his head to stay in the pocket.
- Of the last 14 games between these two, 12 have been decided by last than seven points. In those games, Utah has won eight while BYU has won six.
- Utah leads the all-time series 54-34-4.
- Bronco Mendenhall and Kyle Whittingham are 3-3 against each other since they became the head coaches of their respective teams.
- Since 1993, the visiting team has won 10 games in this series.
- This is the first time these two teams have played in September since 1958.
- Utah has won six of the last nine games against BYU.
- Utah is tied for tenth nationally in turnover margin at +2.
- Utah is 11-4 in games televised on ESPN2.
- Utah is scoreless in the fourth quarter so far this season.
- Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow was the offensive coordinator at BYU for 27 years although he played at Utah. The Utes also have three coaches on their staff who played at BYU, including head coach Kyle Whittingham.