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October 3, 2007

Utes at a crossroads

Although the season is only five games old, the Utes have already endured enough ups and downs to last themselves the entire year. With another tough road test against Louisville on the horizon, Utah fans want to know the answer to one question: Will the real Utah football team please stand up?

Which Utah team will show up against Louisville? Will it be the team that annihilated UCLA or will it be the team that was humiliated by UNLV? The key to the entire season lies inside the answer to that question. This Utah team has been schizophrenic the entire season, and the inconsistency has driven fans crazy.

Granted, inconsistency tends to happen to teams that lose their seven best players for extended periods of time. However, the flashes of brilliance that have shone through at times this season have revealed that this team does have talent, injuries notwithstanding. Any doubts about the quality of recruiting within the program over the past two years should have been dispelled by the quality play of several freshmen and sophomores in the program.

While a youth movement bodes well for the future of the program, coach Whittingham and his staff must find a way to harness that talent into consistent production and manufacture wins this season. This task is easily the greatest challenge that Whittingham has faced as a coach.

At this point a Mountain West Conference championship is unlikely, so the primary goal should be to finish the season with a bowl invite, which will likely require seven wins this season. At 2-3, the Utes will have their work cut out for them.

Three reasons the Utes will become bowl eligible:

1 - The emergence of Darrell Mack. Mack has been a bright spot in the Utes' two home victories, showing the potential that Utah fans have been waiting for.

2 - A healthy Brian Johnson. Strong quarterback play can make up for a lot of deficiencies in college football. As he recovers from injury, Johnson will be looking to prove that he is among college football's elite quarterbacks. If he succeeds, the Utes will resume their winning ways.

3 - A sense of urgency. For the past three years, Utah has been able to make late season runs when it counted. Can they do it again?

Three reasons the Utes won't become bowl eligible:

1 - Road woes. Although Utah has been steady at home the past two games, their performance on the road has been nothing short of dreadful. Considering the fact that four of Utah's final seven games are on the road, Utah will have to win on the road.

2 - Injuries. Injuries are part of the game, especially as bodies begin wearing down at the end of the season. Utah has already lost so many playmakers that additional injuries may be insurmountable.

3 - Inconsistency. Inconsistency has been the plague of the Utes all season long. They will need to overcome that weakness to finish strong.


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