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View from the Booth: Utah Utes football: Utes have answered critics

Published: Thursday, Sept. 22 2011 7:29 p.m. MDT

Three games into the season and it's "bye" time for the Utah football team. Usually coaches like to have this week off a little later in the season, but coming off the rout in Provo, this bye week comes at a perfect time for the Utes.

This week gives Kyle Whittingham and his staff the chance to let the largest win in Rivalry Game history in Provo marinate just a little bit longer, with no worry of a "hangover" if there was a game this weekend. In addition, the Utes suffered two notable injuries last Saturday with Tony Bergstrom and Jake Murphy going down. The two weeks leading up to the Washington game on Oct. 1 will give both guys a chance to heal up and get back on the field for the Utes' Pac-12 home opener.

So what do we know about the 2-1 Utes after three weeks? Have any questions about this team been answered?

Here's what we know.

This Utah defense is as good or better than advertised. The constant theme through fall camp was that the front seven is extremely deep and talented, but the secondary inexperienced. After three weeks and two key road games it appears that the Kalani Sitake defense is living up to its billing.

Limiting USC to 17 points (I still don't acknowledge the last TD, despite what the Pac-12 Conference says) and BYU to just 10 points, while forcing 10 turnovers in those two contests, tells me that Utah has a defense that will stand up week-in and week-out in Pac-12 play. Most amazing is the depth of talent on the defensive side of the football.

Utah has a big-time running back. John White has run for 380 yards and five touchdowns with a (6.2) average per carry in three games. He ranks seventh nationally in rushing yards, after facing two pretty good defensive units during the last two weeks. When I watch White run, his style and body type reminds me of collegiate great and current NFL'er Darren Sproles. Whether he becomes that type of back remains to be seen.

Norm Chow can still call a pretty mean offensive game. Despite the local excitement of Chow's arrival here in Salt Lake City, there were many detractors in other Pac-12 ports about Chow's hire. Many questioned whether he still had "it." That maybe he had lost his fastball.

Well the last two weekends have answered those questions, especially against the Cougars, where Chow's offense clearly outplayed Mendenhall's defense. It's still a work in progress, but the progress can clearly been seen.

I spoke to Chow and other Utah coaches this week as they began to look at the Washington Huskies. The consensus is that the grind begins now because it's nine straight weeks of football from here on out. So the Utes will enjoy the weekend off, knowing that the next two games may tell the tale for this seasons' Pac-12 fortunes.

Bill Riley can be heard as the radio voice of the University of Utah on game days and also on weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on the "Bill and Spence Show" on ESPN Radio 700 AM.

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