Tom Smart, Deseret News
Phil Steele, author of the best-selling book "Phil Steele's College Football Preview," called in to the Jake and Tony show on 1280 The Zone on Monday to discuss how Utah teams will fare in the upcoming college football season.
Steele started the interview by discussing his expectations for BYU. On the defensive side of the ball, Steele said the he expects BYU to have another strong year.
"Last year the defense was something special holding opponents to season lows most of the year," Steele said. "This year's defense won't be quite to that level, but they're still one of the top 20 defenses in the country."
Steele said the return of senior Kyle Van Noy was an unexpected, albeit welcome surprise.
"I was surprised when Kyle Van Noy opted to come back. He would have been an upper pick in the draft, so that was a nice thing for BYU to get him back."
On the offensive side of the ball, Steele compared quarterback Taysom Hill to former quarterback Riley Nelson.
"Sort of atypical for BYU to have a Riley Nelson at the starting quarterback, a guy more of a runner than a passer," Steele said. "Taysom Hill is a really good runner, but also probably an upgrade in the passing department — I think he's going to step in and have a fine season."
Steele praised BYU's strength of schedule as being exceptional since independents can't rely on prescheduled conference games.
"Overall this is a very good BYU team — now the schedule is not easy. Being an independent, I like the way they are scheduling. They are scheduling the big boys and taking them on."
Steele said that he had BYU favored in all but their games against Texas, Wisconsin and Notre Dame, with Utah State being a toss up.
"Add it all up, I think that BYU, despite the tough schedule, has a shot at topping last year's eight-win total."
University of Utah
Steele rated the Utes as having the 12th toughest schedule in the nation.
"It's not easy playing in the PAC-12 as Utah fans have learned. They got a little accustomed to those double-digit win seasons, and they've gone out the window the last two years."
Steele said that the toughness of conference games as well as rivalry games against strong in-state opponents will make Utah's season a difficult one.
"When you look at the schedule, not only are the PAC-12 games tough — and you play nine which makes it difficult — but BYU, having to play them on the road, and a very good Utah State and a little bit of an underrated Weber State as well, there's not a lot of soft spots on that schedule this year."
According to Steele, Utah will lose 34 lettermen from last season, but there are a number of key players that will be returning.
"There’s some players available. I think Travis Wilson will be a good quarterback for them; he was one of my top-rated quarterbacks coming out of high school," Steele said. "Defensively they've got six starters back on that side of the ball, although they do lose 16 lettermen."
Steele said that a few key wins could propel Utah's season and, although he doesn't see them playing in a bowl game this year, fans can expect improved play from the Utes.
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