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9 telling numbers about the Utes' first nine games

Utah Utes offensive lineman Isaac Asiata (54) and running back Joe Williams (28) celebrate after Williams ran for a touchdown, putting Utah up 14-0 after the PAT, during a game against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Saturday, Oct.
Utah Utes offensive lineman Isaac Asiata (54) and running back Joe Williams (28) celebrate after Williams ran for a touchdown, putting Utah up 14-0 after the PAT, during a game against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016.
Spenser Heaps,

The college football regular season is already three-quarters completed. The Utes have had a successful year so far with a close win against rival BYU, a national ranking in the polls and a chance to be at the top of the Pac-12 when all is said and done.

With the team on a bye this week, let us look at nine numbers from their first nine games of the season.


Utah is ranked 16th in the first college football playoff poll. Ute fans will agree that this is not too bad of a place to be, especially considering the one spot increase after a hard-fought loss to Washington last week. Time will tell what the future holds for the Utes, but with plenty of time remaining in the season, Utah has time to make some big improvements and continue to improve on their conference and FBS success.


In their two losses this season, Utah has lost by a combined 12 points. Even more distressing, both games came down to the wire. Washington's punt return for a touchdown in the final minutes doomed the Utes against the undefeated Huskies, and Cal's goal-line stand secured the Bears' 28-25 victory back in early October. The what-if game is alway dangerous to play, but one has to wonder where Utah would be if even one of those games turned out in its favor.


Win or lose, there are always takeaways for improvement from any game. However, in Utah's two losses this season, the Utes had zero turnovers, more first downs and controlled the time of possession. All of this is a recipe for success. But football proves unpredictable and, of course, the only numbers that matter after a game are those on the scoreboard.


Perhaps a number to be concerned with is the Utes ranking in penalties this season. Only seven teams have more penalties on the year. With 68 penalties through nine games, the Utes are not doing themselves any favors. In the recent loss to Washington, Utah had 10 penalties. Successful teams do not give up free yards, and with 573 penalty yards given up this season, Utah can certainly do better in this category.


Despite their ranking in all the national polls, Utah has had some struggles. One of those struggles comes when Utah is within striking distance of the end zone. Utah is ranked 107th in red zone offense. The Utes score only 76 percent (32/42) of the time in the red zone. With those 32 scores, only 22 have been touchdowns. Scoring a touchdown only 52 percent of the time is leaving some much-needed points on the board.


Speaking of the red zone, Utah is ranked 97th in red zone defense. When opponents get within 20 yards of the end zone, they score on 90 percent of their attempts. Another telling number is that 70 percent of those trips end in touchdowns for the opposition. It is, of course, unrealistic to assume that the Utes would be perfect when opponents are within scoring range, but when comparing the Utes’ struggle on the offensive side in the red zone to the overwhelming success of their opponents, there is cause for concern as Utah enters the final push for a potential conference championship game.


The most exciting player to watch has only played a little over half the season so far. Joe Williams has earned 758 yards in just five games. His most impressive game was against UCLA when he racked up an FBS season-best 332 yards to go along with four rushing touchdowns. Williams possess elite speed and great vision while carrying the ball. With only a few games left, Ute fans should cherish his tremendous talent while they have the chance.


Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, Utah is 24-27 in their 51 conference games. Any fan knows that the first few years were a bit of a struggle in the P5 conference, but Utah is trending in the right direction of late. With three regular season games remaining, Utah has a chance to get back to a .500 record. More important, those three wins would secure a conference championship birth with a potential rematch against undefeated Washington. Utah has plenty to play for and a tremendous chance to continue climbing the national polls.


In order to get to the conference championship game, Utah will have to get past an impressive Colorado team. It is never wise to overlook any team, but one cannot help but look at the Nov. 26 matchup. Colorado and Utah are ranked 15th and 16th respectively, and being the two teams added to the conference in 2011, it is great to see both teams holding their own and proving they belong with the big boys.

Ute fans should continue being excited about this impressive football team. With just a few struggles and many positives, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham and his staff have done a great job. With a bye this week, the Utes have an extra opportunity to get healthy and prepare for the final push of the season. Ute fans will certainly be at a loss come the weekend, but fear not, Arizona State is right around the corner (Thursday, Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m. FS1).

Cameron Wood is a graduate of Weber State University and a teacher and coach at St. Joseph Catholic High School in Ogden, Utah. Email: Follow on twitter @camwood03.