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Recent prognostications don’t have Utah pulling a three-peat in the Pac-12 South

Utes are No. 24 overall in ESPN’s power index

Utah Utes defensive end Mika Tafua (42) sacks Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Steven Montez (12) during the first half of an NCAA football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019.
Colter Peterson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Nothing like a pandemic to make early football forecasts more interesting. A couple of Pac-12 prognosticators have weighed in recently with predictions of how the upcoming season may turn out.

The Utah Utes, two-time defending Pac-12 South champions, are expected to face a serious challenge from USC in their bid for a three-peat. The Utes will have nine new starters on defense plus a new starting quarterback, running back and left tackle on offense.

CBSSPORTS.COM (May 1): “The Pac-12 is brimming with intrigue,” noted author David Cobb, who predicted the win total for every team in the league. Cobb’s projections have California claiming the North Division title with an 8-1 conference mark (winning a head-to-head tiebreaker with co-champ Oregon). USC heads the South Division race with the same record. Arizona State and Utah are next with 5-4 marks in Pac-12 play.

Cobb writes that the Utes have continuity as their strength.

“But while Kyle Whittingham returns for his 16th season as coach and both coordinators are back from last year’s 11-3 team, the roster is undergoing a massive overhaul,” he said.

However, Cobb expects the program to bounce back quickly.

“The Utes will be back to prominence soon, but this season might be part of the bridge to get them there,” he explained. “If, somehow, they can knock off USC at home on Oct. 2, their odds at another division title will improve dramatically. But for now, that one is penciled in as a win for the Trojans.”

ESPN.COM (May 1): Analytics writer Seth Walder noted that the Football Power Index and the Allstate Playoff Predictor has Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama as the favorites to reach the College Football Playoff. Wisconsin is projected to claim the fourth and final berth. As for the Pac-12, Oregon is eighth overall and USC is 14th in the Allstate Playoff Predictor. The conference, it analyzed, has just a 28% chance of sending a team to the national semifinals and a 0.1% chance of getting multiple teams invited.

ESPN.com‘s “College Football Power Index has Utah ranked third in the Pac-12 and 24th in the nation.