Utah Utes: CFN College Football Preview 2021

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College Football News Preview 2021: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Utah football season with what you need to know.

Contact/Follow @ColFootballNews & @PeteFiutak

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Utah Football Schedule Analysis
– Utah Utes Previews
2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

2020 Record: 3-2 overall, 3-2 in Pac-12
Head Coach: Kyle Whittingham, 17th year, 134-66
2020 CFN Final Ranking: 27
2020 CFN Preview Ranking: 26
2019 CFN Final Ranking: 18

Utah Utes College Football Preview 2021: Offense

It was just about impossible to get last season going. Once the Utes finally got started in late November, just about everyone on the schedule had a few games under their belts. It wasn’t always smooth, but the ground game was fine, the attack dominated the time of possession battle, and …

The passing game wasn’t great. More on that in the Keys To The Season, but QB Jake Bentley was just okay, there weren’t enough downfield big plays, and the pivot to a more dynamic attack stalled.

Bentley took his talents to South Alabama, but Utah was able to land Charlie Brewer from Baylor – a solid four-year starter who’s been through the Big 12 wars. He’s got the talent around him – his job is to be the leader and steadying force who keeps pushing the offense.

The receiving corps lost deep threat Bryan Thompson to Arizona State, but it more than made up for it by getting former OU Sooner/UCLA Bruin Theo Howard – 132 catches for over 1,500 yards at the two schools – from the transfer portal.

TE Brant Kuithe led the team with 25 catches – who can get deep, but didn’t do it much last year – and Britain Covey is a terrific veteran who led the team in receiving yards in two of the last three years. Covey is only 5-8, but the Utes have some big guys in 6-4 Devaughn Vele and 6-3 Solomon Enis.

The O line should be dominant. It’s Utah, so it’s massive up front and can get nasty. All five starters are expected back around Nick Ford, who can play anywhere on the line but has a home as a next-level center.

And of course, the Utah season will be played with the heaviest of hearts over the tragic death of RB Ty Jordan, who passed away after accidentally shooting himself. Along with being one of the more popular young players, he was the team’s leading rusher and a rising star as the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year.

Second-leading running back Devin Brumfield left for Tulane and Jordan Wilmore is gone to Fresno State, but TJ Pledger comes in from Oklahoma – he averaged five yards per carry, can catch, and isn’t bad on kick returns.

Pledger will work in the rotation with 216-pound LSU transfer Chris Curry and second-year freshman Micah Bernard.

– What You Need To Know: Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Utah Football Schedule Analysis

NEXT: Utah Utes College Football Preview 2021: Defense

Utah Utes College Football Preview 2021: Defense

The defense didn’t quite get back its mojo – it allowed more than 17 points twice in the first 12 games of the 2019 season and allowed 21 or more in seven straight games since – but it was hardly bad.

The Utes were third in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, No. 2 in scoring D, and was fantastic at coming up with third down stops, but …

The mediocre: the secondary allowed 200 yards or more in every game. The good: it picked off seven passes and allowed just eight touchdowns. There’s all-star talent at corner with JaTravis Broughton back along with great-tackler Clark Phillips – the secondary will be among the Pac-12’s best.

Safety Vonte Davis tied for the team lead with two picks along with 16 tackles, but Nate Ritchie – the third-leading tackler with 28 stops – is gone on a Church mission.

The linebacking corps should be a killer. Devin Lloyd is a big-hitting 232-pounder who led the team in tackles over the last two years, and second-leading tackler Nephi Sewell is a dangerous all-around playmaker. The solid size across the board should hold up just fine behind the very, very big defensive front.

The Utes were amazing against the run and should be again. Be stunned if 323-pound senior Viane Moala isn’t an all-star at one tackle spot, and the combination of Mike Tafua and Maxs Tupai on the ends are big, and they’re going to be a problem for the Pac-12.

– What You Need To Know: Offense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Utah Football Schedule Analysis

NEXT: Utah Utes College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

Utah Utes College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

Best Utah Utes Offensive Player

C Nick Ford, Jr.
So where would you like him to be an all-star performer? He can work anywhere on the line, and he has. Last year, though, he rose up and became a First Team All-Pac-12 performer as he settled in at center.

The 6-5, 315-pounder will be tried out by the NFL types just about everywhere, but he’s a massive center prospect who was considered a likely top 100 pick had he entered the 2021 draft. He could and should move into the top 50 after this year.

2. OG Sataoa Laumea, RFr.
3. WR Britain Covey, Jr.
4. QB Charlie Brewer, Sr.
5. TE Brant Kuithe, Jr.


Utah Football Schedule 2021, Analysis

Best Utah Utes Defensive Player

LB Devin Lloyd, Jr.
He might not be the best linebacker in the Pac-12, but he’s very, very close. The 232-pound junior is a massive presence in the middle of the linebacking corps, coming up with close to 140 tackles over the last two years with 8.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss.

No, he’s not going to do a ton against the pass, but that’s not why he’s there. He’ll clean up everything the line doesn’t take care of.

2. DE Mika Tafua, Jr.
3. LB Nephi Sewell, Jr.
4. CB JaTravis Broughton, Soph.
5. DT Viane Moala, Sr.

Top Incoming Utah Utes Transfer

QB Charlie Brewer, Sr.
There are a few good running backs coming in to try filling the void left by the tragic death of Ty Jordan – and with a few other backs transferring – and the defense is getting a few nice parts, but this should be Brewer’s team to take over.

The former Baylor threw for close to 9,700 yards with 65 touchdowns and 28 picks over his four seasons – including a Big 12 Championship appearance in 2019. He’s just the experienced talent who can take this offense back to the form of a few years ago.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Utah Football Schedule Analysis

NEXT: Utah Utes College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

Utah Utes College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

Utah Utes Biggest Key: Offense

The passing game had to be more efficient. Utah’s offensive line was decent enough – and it’s about to be fantastic – but QB Jake Bentley threw six interceptions to go along with his six touchdowns and struggled to make the downfield plays. He’s gone to South Alabama, and now it’s up to Charlie Brewer from Baylor to step in and do more.

Utah averaged 6.9 yards per throw after averaging almost ten per pass – with Tyler Huntley throwing 19 touchdowns and four picks – in 2019. 2020 was the first time since 2015 the team failed to hit seven yards per throw, and the change since then was by design.

The Utes made a point to come up with a more open attack to go along with the ground-and-pound, and it worked. Now it’s up to Brewer to bring it back.

Utah Utes Biggest Key: Defense

Giving up passing yards is okay, but don’t give up the really big plays. The Utah defense was a brick wall against the run and should be again. Forget about pounding on this massive front six, and you don’t play defensive back for Kyle Whittingham if you don’t tackle.

So teams have to throw to get by.

The 2020 Utes allowed 257 yards per game, which might’ve been among the most in the Pac-12, but it wasn’t that bad considering there was next to nothing happening on the ground.

That’s fine as long as there weren’t a whole lot of deep shots.

The Utes allowed over seven yards per pass twice last year – both games were losses. They allowed fewer than seven yards a throw in the three wins and are now 14-0 going back to the beginning of 2019 when they don’t get bombed on.

The program is 3-11 since the start of 2017 when it gives up more than seven yards a pop.

Utah Utes Key Player To A Successful Season

RB Micah Bernard, RFr.
Forgive the crass analysis of anything football related considering the heartbreaking passing of Ty Jordan – he really was a terrific running back.

He averaged over seven yards per carry on his 597 yards with six touchdowns, and the second-leading running back Devin Brumfield is a Tulane Green Wave. There might be talents coming in from the transfer portal, but Bernard will get the first look.

He didn’t get a whole lot of work considering how good Jordan was – he only carried it 15 times for 76 yards. And that’s where Oklahoma’s TJ Pledger and LSU’s Chris Curry come in.

It will take a good rotation to replace when Jordan brought to the Ute offense.

Utah Utes Key Game To The 2021 Season

at USC, Oct. 9
The Utes have lost two straight to USC, but it’s worse than that – at least for this season.

The 2021 Utah team can absolutely beat the Trojans, but there’s one massive issue – it’s in LA.

Including the 1993 Freedom Bowl in Anaheim, Utah has lost ten straight to USC in the greater Los Angeles era. The last win in the series on the road was a 27-12 victory to kick off the 1916 season.

Change that around and win this, and the game in Salt Lake City against Arizona State a week later might turn out to be for the Pac-12 South title.

Utah Utes Football Schedule Breakdown & Analysis

2020 Utah Utes Fun Stats

– Time of Possession: Utah 33:20 – Opponents 26:40
– Punt Return Average: Opponents 23 yards – Utah 16.3 yards
– Average Yards Per Carry: Utah 5.1 – Opponents 3.8

NEXT: Utah Utes College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

Utah Utes College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

So did we all just forget how good Utah was, and probably will be again?

It’s as if the end to the 2019 season made it seem like all the success over the previous two seasons was a mirage.

After all, winning the Pac-12 South in 2018 and 2019 wasn’t like taking down the Big Ten East or the SEC West. So yeah, it was great to get to two straight Pac-12 Championship games, but the Utes clunked in both of them.

They blew their chance at the College Football Playoff in 2019 – at least there would’ve been a theoretical fight for the fourth spot with Oklahoma – and the formerly infallible program in bowl games under head coach Kyle Whittingham lost two straight.

In 2018 and 2019, Utah was great at getting it on the green, but couldn’t putt.

So after the loss to Oregon in the 2019 Pac-12 Championship – followed up by a desultory performance against Texas in a blowout loss of an Alamo Bowl – the 0-2 start to 2020 took Utah completely off the national radar.

Now the Pac-12 is all about two-time defending champion Oregon Ducks, and the expected rise of Arizona State, and the USC offense, and the Washington defense, and …

Watch out. Those 2018 and 2019 Utah teams were fantastic, and the 2021 version should be right there with them.

Set The Utah Utes Regular Season Win Total At … 9

There’s a little work to do. The pass defense has to be a keep the yards in check, the running game has to hope a few new parts to the mix can rise up, and transfer Charlie Brewer 1) has to stay healthy after getting knocked around too much at Baylor and 2) must add more to the passing attack.

Whittingham is still among the best and most under-hyped coaches in college football, the lines are massive, deep, and will be outstanding, the kicking game is still good, and the schedule isn’t awful.

There aren’t any non-conference games against Power Five programs – but going to BYU and San Diego State is close – and there’s no Washington to face from the North.

Yup, the Utes have to face Oregon, but that’s in Salt Lake City, as is the massive showdown with Arizona State.

Going to USC isn’t fun, but the Utes only get four Pac-12 road games, and the other three are at Oregon State, Stanford and Arizona.

Forget about Utah at your own peril.

It’s going to be right there in the hunt for the Pac-12 Championship all season long, and it just might make it three trips to the league’s title game in four seasons.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
Utah Football Schedule Analysis

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