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Utah football fanalyst: A rational look at the Utes’ 3-0 start

SHARE Utah football fanalyst: A rational look at the Utes’ 3-0 start

Utah Utes quarterback Nate Johnson (13) warms up with Utah Utes offensive lineman Alex Harrison (79) against the Florida Gators in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Starting off 3-0 is not what a rational Utah football fan would have thought would happen this season, based on injuries to the starting quarterback and a bunch of other players on both sides of the ball. And yet here we are — the Utes are undefeated in the first three games for the first time since 2019.

But what comes next? What should we expect from the next nine regular-season games in the Conference of Champions?

As a rational fan, here’s a few things you should keep in mind:

QB play and the offense

The Utes started the last game with a fourth-string QB Nate Johnson. He performed well against Weber State and led the Utes to late scores to beat Baylor, but he hasn’t yet played on the same level as starter Cam Rising. Without high level QB play, Utah will struggle during the rest of the season. Be patient as Johnson gains experience and Andy Ludwig puts him in positions to succeed and execute the offense. Kyle Whittingham said Rising did well in practice on Tuesday, but will he be cleared for Saturday? I have my doubts, but I also have hope. How will Utah score points? Can Ludwig scheme up at least two trips to the end zone in each game to complement a couple field goals? Utah will likely need to score over 25 points a game to get wins in conference play.

The defense

Utah’s defense is one of the best in the country (ranked ninth nationally in scoring D), and will likely keep the team in every game this season. Utah will allow more points per game in conference play, but should still hold teams around 24 points per game on average. The Utes might also need a pick-six in each game too, or at least get turnovers and shorter fields for the offense.

Conference of Champions

Utah currently plays in the best football conference, according to the AP Top 25 poll that ranked eight of the conference’s teams in the top 25. In some ways that’s good, and in many ways, for the Utes, it’s bad. Can Utah power through its schedule that currently includes six games against ranked opponents? Yes, it can — if Rising is playing QB. Without Rising, it’s going to be hard to beat opponents on the road. (Does anyone doubt the Utes at home?) 


Enjoy this season, it’s going to be a wild one. At this point Utah could go to the playoffs, but it could also end up with four conference losses.