SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah football team doesn’t start practicing for another three weeks with the season starting four weeks after that with a game against Weber State on Aug 30. In a little over two weeks, the annual Pac-12 media day will be held in California when the coaches’ poll of season predictions will be released.
In the meantime, several top college football magazines have made their predictions for the upcoming season and all agree that the Utes should be in for a pretty good season.
All four of the major publications — Phil Steele's College Football Preview, Athlon, Lindy’s and Street & Smith’s — are predicting the Utes to finish second in the Pac-12 South Division. In national rankings, the Utes are ranked No. 22 by Phil Steele, 28th by Athlon and 32nd by Lindy’s. Street & Smith’s only ranks the top 25 and the Utes are not ranked.
Also, all four magazines select Matt Gay as a first-team all-American placekicker, following up on his Lou Groza-award-winning season in 2017, with three of the four putting Ute punter Mitch Wishnowsky as the first-team all-American punter. Only Street & Smiths lists Wishnowsky on the second team, behind Missouri’s Corey Fatony.
USC is picked to win by all four to win the South, with Washington picked to win the North. Three of the four have Arizona finishing third in the South, while Street & Smith’s puts UCLA third and Phil Steele has UCLA sixth behind Colorado and ASU.
As for bowl games, everyone picks the Utes to be bowl eligible with the following predictions for Utah: Street & Smith’s — Foster Farms Bowl vs. Maryland; Phil Steele — Sun Bowl vs. Louisville; and Athlon — Cactus Bowl vs. Iowa State.
Here’s what each of the publications has to say about Utah’s prospects for 2018:
Athlon: “The Utes are feeling some pressure to win their first Pac-12 South championship. The pieces are in place for Utah to challenge USC for supremacy in the South.”
Phil Steele: “The Pac-12 South is wide open and Utah has QB (Tyler) Huntley, RB (Zack) Moss, a veteran O-line, a top-25 defense, No. 1-rated special teams. This team is capable of double-digit wins and will contend in the South.”
Street & Smith’s: “If the defense can behave more characteristically, there should be enough for Utah to challenge for the Pac-12 South title, especially considering that most of Utah’s top opponents will be traveling to Salt Lake City.”
Lindy’s: “Utah is a tempting bet (to win the South), but crossover games are a killer.”
Other tidbits from the magazine forecasts:
• Phil Steele has the Utes with the 26th toughest schedule in the country and fourth toughest in the Pac-12 behind UCLA (1), Oregon State (4) and Arizona State (7).
• Lindy’s ranks Huntley No. 18 among the nation’s quarterbacks.47 comments on this story
• Athlon ranks Utah’s defensive backs No. 12 in the nation, the coaching staff No. 18, and the running backs unit No. 18.
• In position rankings, Phil Steele ranks Utah’s special teams No. 1, the defensive backs No. 10, the linebackers No. 27, and the defensive line No. 29.
• Ute linebacker Chase Hansen is listed as “best athlete” in Pac-12 by Street & Smith’s.
• Both Lindy’s and Street & Smith’s list Utah as having the No. 5 best recruiting class in the Pac-12 for 2018.