Friday, October 29, 2010

Utah Utes vs. Air Force Falcons, October 30th

Overview

The Utes(7-0) enter the game ranked 8th in the BCS standings after a 59-6 beatdown on CSU. The offense rolled up 648 total yards and the defense held a team without an offensive TD for the 3rd time on the season.

Air Force was ranked in the top 25 2 weeks ago but have fallen out after 2 losses on the road, a narrow, controversial loss to SDSU, and a blowout loss on the road to TCU.

Air Force leads the all time series 14-12, with only 29 points separating the series.

Utah's Offense vs. Air Force's Defense

Passing Game

Jordan Wynn is coming off his best game of the season going 23-29 with 325 yds and 3 TD's. More importantly, he did not throw an interception, rebounding from his poor performance of the prior week. DeVonte Christopher lead the receiving corp with 5 catches, 111 yds, and 1 TD. Jerome Brooks continues to lead the team with 32 catches on the year for 419 yards, 4 TD's, but Christopher is slowly becoming the Utes main target in the passing game. The Utes are 1st in the MWC and 2nd nationally in Pass Efficiency Offense.

The Falcons are stingy against the pass giving up on 166 yds/game which ranks 12th nationally and are 16th in Pass efficiency defense. They are lead by Reggie Rembrant and Anthony Wright, Jr. Rembrant is an all conference performer and has 3 picks on the year.

Air Force has been prone to giving up some big plays , and the Utes will look to exploit that with their stable of speedy receivers

Slight Edge to Utah in the best unit matchup of the game

Running Game

The Falcon's have struggled against the running game this season giving up an average of 205.8 yards/gm which ranks 110th Nationally(7th in MWC). They run a 3-4 with their undersized D-line getting pushed around more than is typical. Linebackers, Brady Amack and Jordan Waiwaiole, are the leaders of the unit and are 2nd and 3rd in tackles on the team. Safety Jon Davis leads the team with 61 stops on the season

Utah are averaging 193.3 yards a game which ranks 29th nationally. Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata continue to split time effectively gaining a combined 814 yards on 153 carries. Sausan Shakerin showed some of the skills that wow the coaches and fans with his 72 yd TD scamper, but has yet to make a meaningful impact due to injury.

Look for the Utes to try to exploit the Falcons weakness on the ground with the dual attack

Advantage Utah

Utah's Defense vs. Air Force's Offense

Passing Game

Utah continues to play well against the pass giving up 159.9 yards/game(10th Nationally) and rank 12th nationally in Pass Efficiency Defense. The only complaint that can be leveled against them is the lack of interceptions, with only 5 for the season(Robert Johnson had that many alone at this point last year).

Air Force pass infrequently, averaging only 113.8 yards/game, but are a respectable 46th nationally in Pass Efficiency Offense(3rd in MWC). The Falcons go to targets are WR Jon Warzeka(12-212-1) and TE Chaz Demerath(12-180-2). QB TIm Jefferson is 51-104 with 6 TD's and 4 picks.

Advantage Utah

Rushing Game

Air Force, as usual, is leading the nation in rushing at 326.5 yards/game. RB Asher Clark leads the attack with 682 yards on 115 carries, followed by Jefferson with 503 yds on 86 carries. Losing FB Jared Tew 2 weeks ago has dealt a serious blow to the option attack and can account for some of their ineffectiveness against TCU. He will be replaced by Senior Nathan Walker.

Utah continues to dominate opposing offensive lines giving up only 87.4 yards/game which is tops in the MWC and 6th nationally. The defensive line is starting reduce the 13 man rotation that it began the year with, and we should see a more consistent 8 or 9 man rotation during the meaningful portions of the remaining games. The linebackers have continued their solid play, but face their stiffest challenge of the year trying to deal with the option attack.

The loss of Tew cannot be understated as he was a constant threat to gain 5 yards each carry. The Falcons will get their yards here, but will be held well below their season average.

Advantage Air Force

Special Teams

Utah's return game had an off game by their standards but are still 1st nationally in punt return yardage at 23.3 yards/return. Joe Phillips continues his all-conference caliber season with another FG running his season to 9 for 9.

Punter, Keil Bartholomew, is averaging 41.5 yds(38.8 net) and will be a critical element in controlling field position for the Falcons. They are averaging 9.8 yards on punt returns. Anthony Wright is the main returner. On kickoffs, Jon Warzeka is the primary returner and the average 24.4 yards on a return.

Advantage Utah

Final Analysis

Air Force will look to replicate their gameplan from a year ago, where they dominated the time of possession 2:1 and forced 3 turnovers. Utah missed Matt Asiata's ability to pound the small D-Line on the inside. Look for the Utes to try to establish the running game, pulling the Falcon safties into the box, which will open the middle of the field to the passing game.

If Utah can eliminate turnovers, and take advantage of their strengths running the ball, they will win going away. If the Falcon's can get a few turnovers and keep the high flying Utah offense off the field, it will be a dog fight similar to last seasons OT game.

Utah 34 Air Force 10

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Part 2 Air Force preview with former Falcons QB and current Mtn analyst Beau Morgan, & our BOLD predictions

PART 2 of Air Force preview with former Falcons QB and current Mtn. analyst Beau Morgan, discussing WHY Utah and Air Force games are historically so intense, the end of rivalries with Utah leaving, having 3 non-AQs in the Top 7 (all with MWC relationships), and previewing this saturday's game, along with in-studio fans Cap'n Warfare and WebMonkey with BOLD predictions for the game.


Go Utes!!!

Podcast: Part 1 Air Force preview with former Falcons QB and current Mtn analyst Beau Morgan

PART 1 of Air Force preview with former Falcons QB and current Mtn. analyst Beau Morgan, discussing the NCAA records he holds, life as a Cadet, head coach Troy Calhoun, dissecting the Triple Option attack, how hard it is to prepare for Air Force, and how fans can understand the triple option.


Beau Morgan dives for a 1st down

Utah by the Numbers: Week 9

Week 9
A weekly glimpse at how Utah fits statistically in the MWC and National college football landscape.  Each week we evaluate the Pass Efficiency Differential Margin (PEDM) between Utah and their next opponent and future opponents, and predict an outcome.  We also present where Utah ranks in the MWC composite power rankings  and take a look at other statistics which explain Utah's on-field performance.

Last Week's Prediction:

Utah absolutely destroyed Colorado State this past weekend, 59-6.  In doing so, Utah racked up its 21st straight home win, a MWC record, and 3rd longest streak in the nation.  Utah piled up 648 yards of total offense and put up 50+ points for the fourth time in 5 games.
I had predicted a 45-14 win, but once again, Utah continues to surprise.  Much of the discussion online now is about this Utah team compares to the 2004 team, who is generally considered to be Utah's best offensive team.  Coach Calhoun of AFA is on record as saying that this "is the best team Utah has ever had."  If the Utes do to the Falcons what they did to the Rams, he might be right. But history says that will be easier said than done.

Conference Composite Rankings: NEW DATA
NOTE: I recommend viewing the spreadsheet while reading below to get the most from this analysis.

Utah was the biggest riser in this weeks MWC power rankings.  Although they still hold the second spot behind TCU, they closed the gap.  Week 6 (35-43), Week 7 (35-40), and Week 8 (34-35).  Utah is within one composite point of tying TCU for the top ranking in the conference.   More importantly, Utah made the biggest jump in the composite scores, rising 5 points from Week 7.

This week's opponent (AF) , had the largest drop in composite score, suffering an 11 point drop from 59 to 70.  Despite their fall, AF still finds itself at 4th in the composite power rankings, behind SDSU, but comfortably ahead of CSU and BYU.

Utah now ranks first in rushing defense in the conference (87.43 ypg), although that ranking may be in jeopardy after playing the nation's leading rushing team this weekend (AF - 326.50).  Personally, I'll be shocked in Utah allows AF to reach their average, but it seems unrealistic that they'll hold them to below 90 yards.  Most likely, it'll be somewhere inbetween.

Utah continues to boast some strong national rankings, ranking in the top 10 in the following categories:  2- Passing efficiency (175.96),  8- Sacks (3.14/game), 2- Kickoff returns (28.1 ypr),  2- Punt Returns (21.1 ypr),  4- Scoring defense (12.86 ppg), 5- Total defense (247 ypg),  3- Scoring offense (47.71 ppg), and 6- rushing defense (87.4 ypg).


Week 8 Outlook: NEW DATA

NOTE: I recommend viewing the spreadsheet while reading below to get the most from this analysis.

I'm not making a prediction on the score/outcome this week for two reasons:
1) This analysis is based entirely on the premise that Utah will control the running game and that the outcome will be mainly determined by which team has a better pass efficiency differential margin (refresh on the basis of this analysis).  Since AF leads the country in rushing ypg, this analysis is much less robust and doesn't carry a lot of weight in this particular week.
2) The second reason I can't predict a score is because history indicates this match-up will be close.  Utah and AF just don't play blowout games.   They're always close.

I think Utah's defensive line will be tough and not allow big plays, but if Utah's offense turns the ball over, or has several consecutive 3 and outs, its going to be hard for the defense to stay fresh.  Utah's best bet is to have an explosive 1st quarter and get up big early, forcing AF away from the run game more than they would like to.

Week 9

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Podcast: CSU recap, players of the game, and round table discussion with Warren Brooks, Cap'n Warfare & WebMonkey

CSU game recap with in-studio fans Cap'n Warfare and WebMonkey and call-in guest Warren Brooks, father of Ute wide receiver Jerome Brooks, with insight into the Utah Football program, Jerome's development, the evolution of Utah Football to a national power, the maturation of the NEZ, the construction of the BCS Booty pirate ship, and players of the CSU game, and more...


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Thanks for listening! Go Utes!!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Game Preview: Utah Utes vs. Colorado State Rams. Oct 22nd

Overview

Colorado State is coming off their second win of the year 43-10 vs UNLV. The Rams rode a strong running game with 121 yards from Leonard Mason and 75 yds from Chris Nwoke to the victory. Pete Thomas was not needed much but was 10-14, 233, 3-0. The recipe for CSU success this year entails a strong running game that takes pressure off of their Freshman QB.

Utah won a rather pedestrian game 30-6 at Wyoming. Utah finally had a 100 yd rusher with Matt Asiata gaining 109 yds. The defense lost the shutout after a late pick(one of 3) that set up the Pokes with a short field.

Utah Defense vs. CSU Offense

Passing Game

QB Pete Thomas has played about as well as can be expected for a freshman. He has struggled against upper level defenses, but has a few impressive performances, breaking 300 yds on 2 occasions. His favorite targets have been Tyson Liggett 27-199-0 and Lee Greenwood 16-255-1. TE Eric Pietz, 10-113-3, is a favorite target in the red zone and 3rd down short.

Utah is still led by Brandon Burton and SS Brian Blechen. The Utes are giving up a paltry 155.7 yds/game and rank 15th nationally in PED. The pass rush has garnered 19 sacks, led by CB Lamar Chapman with 4.5.

Look for CSU struggle in the passing game mostly because the Rams will struggle to establish a running game against the Utah.

Advantage Utah

Running Game

The Rams average 117.9 yds a game(6th in MWC) and have been led recently by Leonard Mason 47-300-2, who has over 100 yds the last 2 games. They are coming off 259 yds rushing against the Rebels, which accounts for about 25% of their yearly totals.

The Utes continue to be tough against the run, lowering their game average to 97.3 which is 13th nationally. The defensive line anchored by Sealver Siliga and Dave Krugar continue to give free running to the linebacking crew to scrape and make the plays at the line of scrimmage, instead of 2-3 yards deep.

Look for Utah to dominate the LOS again

Advantage Utah

Utah Offense vs CSU Defense

Passing Game

The good Jordan Wynn 16-25 with 2 TD's and the bad Jordan Wynn 3 picks with 2 in the end zone both made an appearances against Wyoming. Jereme Brooks continues to be the leading receiver with 25-357-4, but DeVonte Christopher is catching up, 21-388-4, after a strong game against the Pokes. Brad Clifford had a solid game catching 6 passes.

CSU gives up 209.0 yds/game but are 120th nationally in PED. They have only picked 2 passes on the season. The Rams start 3 upper classmen in the secondary, but Freshman CB Shaq Bell is their best performer to date.

The good Wynn will reappear at home, spreading the ball out to a plethora of targets.

Advantage Utah

Running Game

Utah continues to run the ball efficiently averaging 188.7 yds/game, led by Matt Asiata,71-354-3, and Eddie Wide, 66-338-6. But Reggie Dunn is starting to become a threat on the reverse or fly sweep. The speedy wideout has only 6 carries on the year, but has picked up 88 yards and has 2 TD's. Look for the Utes to find ways to get the ball into Dunn's hands.

CSU is giving up 202 yards/game which is 6th in the conference. The Rams run a 4-3 led by All-conference caliber LB Mycheal Sisson from the strong side. Weak Side LB, Ricky Brewer, lead the team in tackles with 57.


Advantage Utah

Special Teams

The Utah return games continue to augment the offense, improving field position and setting up the offense in stellar field position. The Punt return is led by Shaky Smithson, who is in a position to collect multiple team and conference records. The Utes average 21.7 yds/return which is 2nd nationally. Not to be outdone, the kick return is 1st nationally with an average of 29.2 yards. Joe Phillips had a blocked PAT, breaking his perfect record this season.

CSU is not shabby on the return game with 27.7 yds(5th nationally) on kickoffs, but only average 8.8 on punts. Tony Drake mans the Kickoff returns and Momo Thomas is the main Punt returner. Kicker Ben Deline has bee busy this year going 10/13 with no misses inside of 30 yards.

Advantage Utah

Final Analysis

Utah returns home for their first game in a month. CSU is not a very good road team, losing 3 games by an average of 44-14, which gives me this weeks score.

Utah 44 CSU 14

Podcast: With Brian Roth, the play-by-play voice of the Colorado State Rams with a CSU game preview

With Brian Roth, the play-by-play voice of the Colorado State Rams with a CSU game preview, along with fan guest Misty Bard discussing how hard it is to get up for games like CSU and how badly we think the blowout will be.




Thursday, October 21, 2010

Podcast: Featuring The Mtn. Network sideline reporter Sammy Linebaugh with an around-the-conference discussion and more

Featuring The Mtn. Network sideline reporter Sammy Linebaugh with an around-the-conference discussion, her time playing HS football, her interview with Lamar Chapman, what makes this Utah team so terrific, the BCS standings, and more.


Sammy Linebaugh on The Mtn.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Podcast: Wyoming game recap, the problem with turnovers, and mid-season grades

Featuring in-studio guest Misty Bard (N25R8 Ute) discussing the Wyoming game, the Laramie road trip, the problem with turnovers, and giving mid-season grades to the Offense, Defense, and Special Teams.


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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Podcast: Part 2 of an EXCLUSIVE interview with legendary coach Rick Majerus


In this exclusive interview with The U Fan Cast, Rick Majerus discusses his early days at Utah, the Utah culture, recruiting to Utah, the early 30-4 run, building up the team in the 90s, the 1998 championship run, how he knew the triangle-and-two would work, coaching philosophies, role players, the importance of academics, his favorite games, players, and opposing coaches, what he's most proud of, his thoughts on Utah's move to the Pac-10 and BYU's move to independence, his current team at St. Louis with assistant coach Alex Jensen, and the continuing love he gets from Ute fans.






Monday, October 18, 2010

Midway Report Card

At the 50% mark of the season I would say without a doubt the Utes are exactly where they wanted to be. They are 6-0, the last two times that has happened they finished the year undefeated. Let's grade each position group of the team:

Quarterback: A-
I'm really torn on where to put the QBs of the team. Up until this last week I probably would have given them a solid A. However with Jordan Wynn's 3 INT day at Wyoming I'm going to bump them down a little bit. Also there are times where the offense stalls for no apparent reason, usually it can come down to the QB decisions. And I really don't need to say much about Terrance Cain. He has been nails when he plays. The Utes may have the best two QBs in the MWC. I just want to see a few less forced balls. The growth with Jordan Wynn has been really noticeable from last season as well. He is not forcing as many balls and his completion percentage has went up.
Here are the stats for both QBs
Wynn - Effeciency rating - 158 ; Completion % - 67 ; Yards 962 ; 9 TDs 5 INTs ; 240 yards per game

Cain - Efficency rating - 185 ; Completion % - 75 ; 496 yards ; 5 TDs 0 INTs ; 99 yards per game

Total - 1458 yards 13 TDs and 5 INTs.

Overall very good numbers from both.

Running Back: B
I'm going to be a little hard on the running backs for one reason. Fumbles. The studs the Utes have in the backfield with Wide and Asiata are extremely productive. However I seem to hold my breath until they are brought down with the ball securely in their hands. It has tapered down over the last couple weeks, but still this is something that needs to be eliminated completely.
Asiata - 356 yards ; 3 TDs ; 59 YPG ; 5 YPC
Wide - 348 yards ; 6 TDs ; 56 YPG ; 5.1 YPC
As a tandem so far it has worked great. They keep well rested and the yards per carry show that.

O-Line: A
2 Sacks all season. Enough said. Also averaging 5.4 yards per carry as a team.

Wide Receivers / Tight Ends: A
I think I'm going to go A here as well. Probably first and foremost for the blocking that these guys are doing. I love watching this group block down the field. They have also been consistent catching the ball. I don't have this number but the YAC for this team is looking good to this point. Usually that's how I gauge how an offense is going is YAC. DeVonte Christopher has emerged as a big time threat. People are shutting down Jereme Brooks because he's is the leader of the group. Shaky has been, well, himself. And this last week we saw Luke Mathews emerge finally. The tight ends have also done a very nice job working the seams of defenses and getting nice chunks of yards. Overall very good stuff

Offensive staff as a whole - B+
Stop turning the ball over and get into a rhythm much earlier in the game and this offense unit won't be stopped by anyone. I mean they are #4 in the country in scoring offense after all.

Defense

Defensive line - A-
Why an A- for a defense line that is 12 deep and nobody can move the ball on them? Sacks. I want to see this group finish more sacks. They are taking up blockers amazingly, but I want to see more QBs on the ground. When they do get into the back field it seems that the QB squirts away. That's the only complaint I have. The opposition is averaging 2.7 yards per carry on them so they are really good.

Linebackers - A
For a group that is without JJ Williams and that was an unknown going into this year they are doing a great job. The three starting backers are leading the team in tackles, that means that the o-line of the other team can't get their hands on them so they can rome around and make plays. Very consistent so far, but expect them to be tested starting October 30th.

Secondary - A
Rarely tested this season. Half of the field is shut down because of Brandon Burton. His name has not been called much at all because of the respect the other teams are showing him. Lamar Chapman is leading the team in sacks coming from the corner spot and he just lays the wood. And Conroy Black has done a very nice job opposite of Burton. And the thing that has been most noticeable is the lack of pass interference calls on the corners. Usually a given for a Utah D but this year they have been pretty PI free thanks to good, strong coverage. And the safeties did not take a hit from last years tandem of RoJo and Joe Dale. This years tandem of Justin Taplin-Ross and true freshman Brian Blechen have been solid. JTR is helping rome the middle of the field while Blechen hits everything and everyone in sight. He is already blossoming into a potential super star on this Ute defense.

Overall Defense ; A-
Need more takeaways, just as Coach Whit has said. They are only giving up 14 points a game and are in the top 10 in total defense in the country. They just need to give the offense some short fields with turnovers. Thus far though this looks like it could be the scariest Ute defense we have seen yet.

Special Teams ; A
4 names. Shaky, Phillips, Sellwood, and Dunn. The first game appears to have been an anomaly. You don't need me to give you stats to know how dominate this group has been. But just for fun -
Utah leads the nation in kickoff return yardage at 29.2 yards per return. Shaky Smithson is leading the country averaging 24.1 yards per punt return with 2 TDs and three returns of 70+ yards. He has set the school record for punt return yards in a season already through six games, passing Steve Smith. Here's a fun number for you - the opposition has just returned 5 punts... all season. And Joe Phillips is leading the team in scoring with 59 points going 8/8 on FGs and 35/36 on PAT. The next closest - Eddie Wide with 42 points.

One more note on Shaky - he is averaging 146.8 all purpose yards a game. Almost double the next player.


Utah by the Numbers: Week 8

Week 8
A weekly glimpse at how Utah fits statistically in the MWC and National college football landscape.  Each week we evaluate the Pass Efficiency Differential Margin (PEDM) between Utah and their next opponent and future opponents, and predict an outcome. We also present where Utah ranks in the MWC composite power rankings and take a look at other statistics which explain Utah's on-field performance.

Last Week's Prediction:
Last week I called for a 40 point win.  Not too bad, but not great.  30-6 was still a solid win, but certainly not a  40 point margin.  In truth, this Utah team is tough to predict because the turnover story is always unpredictable.  Take away Utah's 3 turnovers (2 of which were INT's in the endzone), and we're easily looking at a 40 point win.  Utah will need to clean up this lingering turnover problem before it costs them against better teams (more on this later).

Conference Composite Rankings: NEW DATA
NOTE: I recommend viewing the spreadsheet while reading below to get the most from this analysis.


*Through week 7, Utah is still in second spot behind TCU in the composite conference rankings.  As far as net scores go, TCU held place, Utah rose 3 pts (from 43 to 40) and the biggest winner was next week's opponent, CSU, who rose from 7th (109 pts) to 5th (98 pts), by far the biggest jump of any team.  AF technically swapped spots with SDSU, despite losing to the Aztecs, but it's essentially a draw.  BYU drops a couple points and moves from 5th to 6th after a tough TCU game. UNLV, Wyoming, and NM round out the bottom.

*Utah remains tops in the conference in pass efficiency despite Jordan Wynn's 3 picks in the last game.  TCU is second.  Utah is still tops in the conference in Sacks allowed, tackles for loss, punt returns, kickoff returns, and scoring offense.  However, Utah is near middle in net punting (5th), and near the bottom in turnover margin (7th), with a -6 differential.  Turnover margin is going to be a critical area for the Utes to clean up.  Teams with negative turnover margins just don't go undefeated (read here).

*If the composite rankings are reflective of how difficult the games will be for Utah, then we've played (and beaten) the bottom 3 teams in the conference, and have yet to play 5 of the top 6 MWC teams in our remaining games.

*CSU has just come off their best offensive game of the year.  One possible cause for concern is that CSU has the 3rd best passing offense (by yardage) in the conference, while Utah's pass efficiency defense has fallen to 4th in the conference.  Utah will need to get better pressure on CSU QB Pete Thomas if they're to stop CSU's passing game. Utah is tops in the conference in Sacks while CSU is 8th in sacks allowed.  On the flip side, this week's matchup will pair the conference's best scoring offense and second best passing offense (Utah) against the worst ranked pass efficiency defense (CSU). 
*Utah's kickoff coverage unit (which has looked extremely pedestrian at times) will need to be in top form, as CSU boasts the conference's second best kickoff return unit (behind Utah).  CSU ranks 6th in total defense and 7th in scoring defense.

*Overall, the matchup favors the Utes strongly, but they'll need to bring a much more focused game with less offensive mistakes than they did against Wyoming if they want to dominate.


Week 8 Outlook: NEW DATA
NOTE: I recommend viewing the spreadsheet while reading below to get the most from this analysis.

Utah dropped in both pass efficiency (173.8 to 169.5) and pass efficiency defense (102.7 to 106.21).  Remember higher numbers are good for pass efficiency, but bad for pass efficiency defense.  Combined, this drops Utah's PEDM from 71.1 to 63.28, their lowest number since just after the New Mexico game.   CSU enters this game with a PEDM of -35.54, also the lowest a Utah opponent has registered since New Mexcico.  That number may be deceiving, since it rose almost 20 points from the week before, and CSU has seem to hit a groove offensively as of late.

The PEDM difference between Utah and CSU is +98.82, another enormous number, which can only lead me to predict a win.  I'm hesitant to venture a margin, especially with Utah's continuing turnover problem.

Utah 45, CSU 14


Week 8

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Podcast: Part 1 of an EXCLUSIVE interview with legendary coach Rick Majerus


In this exclusive interview with The U Fan Cast, Rick Majerus discusses his early days at Utah, the Utah culture, recruiting to Utah, the early 30-4 run, building up the team in the 90s, the 1998 championship run, how he knew the triangle-and-two would work, coaching philosophies, role players, the importance of academics, his favorite games, players, and opposing coaches, what he's most proud of, his thoughts on Utah's move to the Pac-10 and BYU's move to independence, his current team at St. Louis with assistant coach Alex Jensen, and the continuing love he gets from Ute fans.







Friday, October 15, 2010

University of Utah: Cowhide or Pigskin?

When I met my wife for the first time, we were both seniors at the U back in the late ‘90s. I grew up in the suburbs of Salt Lake, and she in Phoenix. I noticed one day that she had one of those heather gray Utah t-shirts with red lettering that said “Utah Football.” I had the exact same t-shirt except mine said “Utah Basketball.” I thought that just looking at us in those t-shirts, you could tell who the local was. Utah football? Seriously? Had she not gotten the memo that we were roughly 10 minutes from winning a basketball national championship just six months earlier? I loved Coach Mac, but everyone knew Utah was a basketball school!

Fast forward 12 years…

The men's basketball team starts practicing for the 2010–’11 season today. They’re coming back from a disappointing 14–17 outing last year that was punctuated by a painful loss at home to BYU and then a post-season exodus of players from the team for varying reasons. Simply put, last season was a good ol’ fashioned punch to the gut.

Meanwhile, the football team is flirting with a top 10 national ranking this week. Go back only seven years and you can count three MWC championships, two BCS bowl wins, one National Coach of the Year, and countless players to the NFL. And, let’s be honest, it’s those gridiron accomplishments (and the potential for more) that likely tilted the scale athletically toward a PAC 10 invite, rather than our hoop successes of yesteryear.

It appears that my wife was a genius prognosticator rather than uninformed coed when she invested in the “Utah Football” t-shirt. As a lifelong Ute (basketball) fan, I never saw it coming.

So, what are we today: a basketball or a football school? What do we want to be? Can we be both?

It seems there’s a law written in the cosmos that says your school can’t be great at both sports aside from the rare year or two when the stars align. Otherwise, you’re known as a basketball school (Kentucky, Duke, Michigan State) or a football school (Alabama, Nebraska, USC).

Why is this? And is this the fate of the University of Utah? Do we have to pick the belle we’ll take to the ball, or can we do some two timing?

If there’s one school out there that can buck the trend, it’s Utah. We busted the BCS first. We’re the only school to have the #1 NFL and #1 NBA pick come from the same school in the same academic year. We’re the first “mid-major” called up to the big leagues based on merit of athletics and academics, not simply filling a void left by another’s departure. Beating the odds is our M.O.

I’m excited about where our football program is heading. But let’s not forget the greatness we’ve achieved on the hardwood. It’s who we are.

If we’re not basketball season ticket holders, let’s try to get to a game, or two, or five and help Boylen and our players regain our hoops legacy that Utah basketball is known for nationally.

Go Whittingham! Go Boylen! Go Utes!

-Alan Macfarlane, aka “FountainofUte”
Follow me on Twitter: @aljmac.

Podcast: Talking Utah @ Wyoming football preview with Robert Gagliardi of the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, and an around-the-conference preview

Talking Utah @ Wyoming football preview with Robert Gagliardi of the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and in-studio guest Greginslc, and an around-the-conference football preview. This week's game in Laramie marks the end of a long and storied rivalry. Listen to find out what Wyoming fans think about Utah's move to the Pac-10 and what to expect from the game on Saturday...


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Special thanks to


Interview with Utah Defensive Back Brandon Burton


Brandon talks about his first interception against Iowa State, locking down receivers, the defensive secondary mindset, the depth of the defense, blitzing, whether he likes hitting or picking better, and what they expect from the Cowboys' offense.



Interview with Utah Defensive Back Conroy Black

Conroy talks about being recruited to Utah from Florida, how he's merited more playing time, playing in Utah's man-corner system, dealing with pass interference penalties, his thoughts on the Iowa State blowout, and what he expects from Wyoming's offense





Interview with Utah Wide Receiver Reggie Dunn

Reggie talks about his 103-yard punt return against Iowa State, becoming a versatile weapon in Utah's offense, making his plays count, playing on special teams, what he expects from the Wyoming defense




Thursday, October 14, 2010

Game Preview: Utah Utes vs. Wyoming Cowboys October 16th

Overview

Utah and Wyoming come into this game from opposite sides of a rout. Utah won impressively at Iowa St. 68-27 and Wyoming was drubbed by TCU 45-0 in Ft. Worth. Wyoming is 2-4 with all of their losses against teams that were ranked at the time(including 3 top 10 teams). They have a respectable win on the road against Toledo and a ho-hum win in the opener against SUU. Utah is 5-0, and are hitting on all cylinders. Since a mistake filled opener against Pitt, the closest game was 28 points and they have scored 50+ in the last 3 games.

Utah Defense vs Wyoming Offense

Passing Game

Soph. Austyn Carta-Samuels missed the game against TCU due to injury, but is reported to be back at full strength for this game. WR David Leonard is the main target in the passing game with 22-219-0. WR Chris McNeil is second on the team with 14-118-1. The Cowboys average 171.5 yds/game which puts them in 8th place in the MWC(ahead of only Air Force). Utah's defense is allowing 163.6 yds/gm and has collected 4 interceptions. CB Brandon Burton collected his first pick against ISU and continues to lead the secondary.

Advantage Utah

Running Game

Wyoming averages a dysmal 69.2 yds/gm. RB Alvester Alexander lead the team with 277 yds on 91 carries. Dual threat QB, Austyn Carta-Samuels, is second with 52-108. Utah gave up a year high 170yds on the ground last week against ISU bringing their season average up to 103.4 yds/gm. While a good chuck of those yards were in the 4th quarter against the 2nd and 3rd string, ISU's quarterback showed that Utah has some weakness against the edge rushing game. ACS has the ability to exploit that weakness this week, but one wonders if his line will give him that chance.

Advantage Utah

Utah's Offense vs. Wyoming's Defense

Passing game

Jordan Wynn is coming off his best performance of the year with 23-31, 325, 2-1. Utah completed passes to 8 different receivers. Jereme Brooks continues to lead the receiving corp with 24-336-4. DeVonte Christopher is the high yardage for the year with 18-348-3. Utah's QB's lead the conference with 70.5% completion rate and are second in the MWC with 249.4 yds/gm.Wyoming is currently giving up 219.3 yds/game but has given up 14 passing TD's as well. SS Shamiel Gary and FS Chris Prosinski are in the top 3 in tackling for the year, which doesn't bode well for the success of a team

Advantage Utah

Running Game

Utah's two pronged running attack of Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide continue to churn out solid cumulative production combining for 526 yds, 8 tds, on 108 carries, with all 3 areas evenly split. Utah has averaged 188.8 yards a game for 3rd in conference. Wyoming has been dreadful against the run, giving up 251 yds/gm. Ironically, they only allowed. The front seven are undersized and have been outmatched all year. Look for this trend to continue.

Advantage Utah

Special Teams

After the debacle that was the Pittsburg game, Utah's Special teams have dominated their counterparts. Led by Shaky Smithson and Reggie Dunn, the return game yields an average of 21.3 yds on punts and 31.2 yds on KO returns. Both of these lead the conference and rank 3rd and 1st nationally. After a shaky start, Sean Sellwood is now averaging 46.8 yds/gross(which includes 2 blocks). Joe Phillips has been perfect 7-7 on FG and 32 XP.For Wyoming, Austin McCoy has been well practiced with 38 punts on the year for an avg of 45.1 yds. Their return teams average 8.5 yds or punt return and 20.1 yds on kick returns.

Advantage Utah

Final Analysis

It is homecoming in Laramie so the Cowboys are hoping for a hostile environment and some adverse weather to help sway the tide in this game. Look for Utah to dominate with their running game to control the clock. Wyoming's only chance to win this game is if Austyn Carta-Samuels is able to run wild at the edges and convert broken plays with his legs and arm. Utah should win in a landslide.

Utah 44 Wyoming 10

Podcast: Featuring fan guest Welby Evangelista recapping the Iowa State blowout and Utah's ridiculous drop in the polls

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Utah by the Numbers: Week 7

Week 7
A weekly glimpse at how Utah fits statistically in the MWC and National college football landscape.  Each week we evaluate the Pass Efficiency Differential Margin (PEDM) between Utah and their next opponent and future opponents, and predict an outcome. We also present where Utah ranks in the MWC composite power rankings and take a look at other statistics which explain Utah's on-field performance.


Last Week's Prediction:
Last week I predicted a win according to the stats, but I called for a 10 point win, a far cry from the 68-27 point shellacking the Utes laid on poor Iowa State.   Utah is beginning to look like an offensive juggernaut, having put up 55+ points in their last 3 games.  As usual, I use the Pass efficiency differential margin (PEDM) to predict W/L for each game.  Last week, the data showed a + 76.34 advantage for Utah.  A few unresolved fears about Utah's turnover differential and the fact that the game was played on the road made me predict a much closer victory than actually happened.  In retrospect, the data indicated the potential for a blowout, but I wasn't completely sold.  I won't doubt the Utes again.  So far, the data hasn't lied.  And as I mentioned in a previous post, most statistical analysis become more robust as the season wears on (more data).


Week 7 Outlook: NEW DATA
NOTE: I recommend viewing the spreadsheet while reading below to get the most from this analysis.


After updating each of our remaining opponents PEDM rankings, AF, TCU, and SDSU figure to be our remaining toughest opponenst.  CSU, at least according to the numbers, might be the biggest blowout the Utes have all season . . . . we'll see.  As for this week, the difference between Utah and Wyoming's PEDM values is + 75.01, just slightly less than last week's 76.34.   Wyoming ranks 8th or 9th (last) in the conference in just about every important offensive category.  Additionally, their passing and scoring defense is only 6th in the conference.   Add to that they are dead last in kickoff return yardage in the MWC, and second worst in sacks, and I think we have the recipe for another blowout. 


PEDM Week 7
Utah: + 71.11
Wyoming: - 3.90                  
PEDM Difference: +75.01




Prediction:  I predict a Utah win by 45 points.  Sounds huge, but how can you bet against a team that just dropped a spot in the polls after laying 68 road points against a Big 12 team?  This team will be hungry to prove a point, and it could get ugly . . . fast.


Conference Composite Rankings: DATA
NOTE: I recommend viewing the spreadsheet while reading below to get the most from this analysis.

This is a new spreadsheet I've compiled and will update each week.  It consists of 17 major categories in which teams are ranked.   It shows the each team's current conference rank (1 thru 9) for each category through the previous week's games.  With 17 categories, the best composite score a team could achieve is 17 and the worst being 153 (17 categories * 9th place in each one).  The sheet is color-coded, with bright green being the best and dark red being worst (see legend).



In this analysis, TCU (35) leads the conference with Utah (43) trailing closely behind.   The remaining ranks are shown on the right side of the spread sheet.  New Mexico comes in dead last with a ranking of 133.  It's interesting to note the discrepancies between these conference rank composite power rankings and the PEDM analysis.  Nowhere is the discrepancy greater than for BYU, who appears as the second worst remaining MWC opponent in the PEDM rankings, but is ranked 5th in the conference composite power rankings.




Utah One to Six 
  1. Utah's national ranking in kickoff return average (31.1 ypr), sacks allowed (1).
  2. Utah's MWC rank in total defense (267 ypg), scoring defense (15.6), and rushing defense (103.4 ypg).
  3. Utah's national ranking in scoring offense (49.0 ppg) and punt returns avg (21.3 ypr)
  4. Utah's national ranking in pass efficiency (173.8).
  5. I can't think of anything.
  6. Utah's national ranking in 3rd down conversion percentage (53.2%).

-Jim Gwilliam, aka "King of the Hill"
Follow me on Twitter: @jgwilliam

Week 7

Friday, October 8, 2010

Interview with Brian Blechen

Brian discusses Iowa State's offense, getting the starting job as a true freshman, and how the defense came together so quickly


Podcast: Featuring Utah Soccer Coach Rich Manning, and Around-the-Conference football talk with FUSS President Coleman Richmond

Featuring a conversation with Utah Soccer Coach Rich Manning, and Around-the-Conference discussion with fan guest and FUSS President Coleman Richmond talking football and tailgating

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Podcast: Featuring fan guests Nevada Ute and hatufan discussing Iowa State and The FUSS, with some very BOLD predictions for the game

Please contact us if you are a Ute fan who would like to be on the show! chris@theufancast.com


Interview with Caleb Schlauderaff

Caleb discusses the handsomeness of the OL, Iowa State's defensive schemes, the awesomeness of Utah's Defense, the difference between blocking for Wynn and Cain, and just how trashy the talk gets in the trenches.


Interview with John Cullen


John Cullen talks about Iowa State's defense, the progression of his own game in the offensive line, and how awesome it is to play in Rice-Eccles Stadium.


Interview with Shawn Asiata

Shawn Asiata talks about Iowa State prep, competing in practice with Utah's D, blocking for his big brother Matt, and scoring his first touchdown as a Ute.


PRESS RELEASE: Utah and BYU agree on home-and-home football series

UTAH ATHLETICS ANNOUNCES SCHEDULE UPDATES
Utah and BYU agree on home-and-home football series


SALT LAKE CITY—In preparation for its move to the Pac-10 Conference in 2011-12, the University of Utah has made adjustments to its future non-conference schedules, Director of Athletics Dr. Chris Hill announced today.

The Deseret Duel rivalry series between Utah and Brigham Young will continue in both football and men’s basketball, with the other sport rivalry games still in the development stage.

The modifications to Utah’s football schedule include a home-and-home series with BYU in 2011 and 2012. The teams will play in Provo on Sept. 17, 2011 and in Salt Lake City on Sept. 15, 2012.

“We are excited to continue our rivalry with BYU in football and men’s basketball and our other sports are busy working out the logistics to make it happen as well,” said Hill. “It is an important rivalry to our fans and to everyone involved with Utah athletics.”

“We are pleased to announce the Deseret First Duel rivalry games will continue with Utah,” said BYU Director of Athletics Tom Holmoe. “The BYU-Utah rivalry is one of the best in the country and very important to the fans of both schools.”

To make room for BYU on its non-conference schedule, Utah canceled a three-game series with Boise State in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The buyout for the Boise State games will cost a total of $350,000 and Utah will recoup $250,000 from Iowa State, which canceled its return game. The Utes filled the ISU vacancy with a home game against Montana State on Sept. 1. Still in place is Utah’s game at Pittsburgh on Oct. 8, 2011.

While the long-term status of the Utah and Utah State rivalry is unknown, the two schools will complete their previously signed contract for a four-game series in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Utah anticipates playing a nine-game Pac-10 schedule in 2011 with five games in Salt Lake City.

Several scheduling decisions have also been reached regarding men’s basketball—working around an 18-game conference schedule featuring non-divisional play. Among them, Utah and BYU have signed a four-year home-and-home series featuring one game a year on the second Saturday of December. The first game is scheduled for Dec. 10, 2011 in Salt Lake City.

The Ute men’s basketball team has also agreed to a four-game home-and-home series with Boise State, starting in 2011 in Salt Lake City. The Utes will discontinue a home-and-home series with Weber State, but hope to host the Wildcats in coming years. Future games with Utah State have not been determined.

2011 Utah Non-Conference Football Schedule
Sept. 1 (Thu.) vs. Montana State, Salt Lake City
Sept. 17 at Brigham Young, Provo, Utah
Oct. 8 at Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Podcast: Iowa State preview with CycloneReport.com and Brian Blechen interview

Featuring a Utah @ Iowa State discussion with of Paul Clark of CycloneReport.com, and an interview with Freshman DB Brian Blechen



Utah by the Numbers, Week 6

Week 6
A weekly glimpse at how Utah fits statistically in the MWC and National college football landscape.  Each week we evaluate the Pass Efficiency Differential Margin (PEDM) between Utah and their next opponent and future opponents, and predict an outcome.  (What is PEDM?)  We also look at other statistics which explain Utah's on-field performance.


Week 6 Outlook:  UPDATED DATA HERE
NOTE: I recommend viewing the spreadsheet while reading below to get the most from this analysis.

After playing Texas Tech, Iowa States efficiency rankings continue to rise, although to a neutral number (-7.4).  Anything ranging from -15 to +15 indicates a respectable team . . . not a great number . . . not a terrible number.   At first glance, this number looks humble compared to Utah's 68.9 PEDM.  Look closer, and you'll find that Iowa State's PEDM ranking comes after playing the teams ranked 54th (N. ILL), 14th (Iowa), 5th (Kansas St.), and 58th (TT) in pass efficiency defense.  All respectable numbers.  By contrast, Utah's opponent with the highest pass efficiency defense ranking was Pittsburgh (68th).

PED: Week 6
Utah: + 68.94
Iowa St:  -7.40
PEDM:  + 76.34

Prediction:  A number this big would normally make me take Utah in a landslide.  However, as outlined above, I believe the PED numbers are skewed too high for Utah and too low for Iowa State given the teams' early season slates.  Given that this game is on the road, and tht this mark's Utah stiffest test since Pittsburgh, I think this game is closer than the stats initially suggest, but I'll still take Utah by 10.  


Other Interesting Facts and Stats:


After 5 weeks of football, Utah is sitting pretty in several statistical categories.  Utah is tops in the MWC in both scoring offense (6th Nationally, 44.25 ppg) and rushing defense (11th nationally, 86.75 ypg).  Utah is also near the tops of the conference in pass efficiency defense (17th nationally).  At first glance, a lethal scoring offense and a stiff rushing defense seem fitting for a top 10 team.  However, we have to remember that Utah achieved these defensive rankings against teams whose total (offense / defense) ranks are:


77/53 - (Pitt)
110/86 - (UNLV)
118/116 (NM)
120/90 (SJSU)


By contrast, Utah is currently ranked nationally in total (offense/defense) as  (51/7).


Some other stats of Note after 5 weeks:
  • Utah is 7th nationally in passing efficiency (172.82), giving them top mark in the MWC.
  • Utah is 6th nationally in Punt Return yardage (19.56 ypg), and 16th in kick return yardage (25.75 ypg).
  • Utah is only 4th in the conference in rushing offense (176.25 ypg), despite a somewhat soft starting schedule.
  • Utah has led an extremely balanced offensive attack in their first 4 games obtaining 36 first downs by pass and rush.
Week 6

Game Preview: Utah Utes vs Iowa State Cyclones. Oct. 9th

Overview

Utah travels to Ames riding high at #10 AP/USA, but mostly untested. The Cyclones enter the game following a 52-38 victory over Texas Tech where they opened up a big lead early, but had to hold on by returning an onside kick for TD. This is the first real road test for the Utes while ISU is 3-0 at home on the season.

Utah Defense vs. ISU Offense

ISU is averaging 26.6 pts and has a balanced offense with 187 Rushes and 182 passes on the year. Starting QB Austen Arnaud played the full game against TTU after missing most of the previous game due to injury. He had his most prolific game to date going 20-28, 190, 4-0. He does have 5 picks on the year, but none in the last 3 games. Their leading rusher is Alexander Robinson with 404 total yards. He split time last week with Shontrelle Johnson and Jeff Woody, but is reported to have fully recovered from a leg injury and should carry most of the load. Tight end, Collin Franklin, is their leading receiver with 21-220-1. Darius Reynolds is the leading wideout with 9-137-1.Utah's defense continues to be led by the defensive line. Nationally the Utes are 7th in both scoring defense and yds/game. Sealver Siliga and Dave Krugar continues to be a force in the middle, occupying blockers and allowing Manis,Martinez and Walker to scrape cleanly from the LB positions. The Backers are compiling big tackling #'s, but that is a direct result of the line play. The SJSU game saw a rarity. A pass thrown in the direction of Brandon Burton for a 4 yd gain. Teams have started to ignore the left side of the formation in favor of trying to pick on Lamar Chapman or Conroy Black. The safety play has been solid with some big hits combined with some missed assignments.Utah should control the line of scrimmage and force ISU into more of a passing game. Arnaud is a threat to run and reminds some of Omar Clayton in the ability to move out of the pocket to buy more time. Look for Utah to assign a spy if that becomes much of a problem.

Advantage Utah.

Utah's Offense vs. ISU's Defense

Running a 4-3, ISU has a decent defense allowing 22.0/gm and 384 yds/gm. They have a ball hawking secondary that has already picked 8 passes and returned 3 of those for TD's. LB's A.J. Klein and Jake Knott are the leaders of the defense, with both of them having 3 picks each. The Cyclone pass rush has been fairly anemic withonly 6 sacks on the year, with DT Stephen Ruempolhamer collecting 2 of them. Utah ranks 6th in scoring at 44.3 pts but 50th with 399.5 yds/gm. This is likely due to 3 special teams TD's and good field position set up by their defense and ST. Jordan Wynn will be making his 3rd start of the year. He is 35-54, 404, 5-1. The Utes rely on the 2 back system with Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata to average 176.3 yds on the ground. The receiving group is led by Jereme Brooks with 20-307-4. The next receiver is DeVonte Christopher with 12-224-2. 9 receivers(and 4 backs) have had a reception to date. Given the lack of pass rush from the front, look for ISU to blitz early and often. Wynn was not tested against SJSU but looked shaky against the blitz up the middle in his only other start. Utah has multiple weapons to use which will keep ISU on their heels.

Advantage Utah

Special Teams

Utah comes into the game with one of the most prolific return teams in the nation lead by Shaky Smithson. Smithson has returned 2 punts for touchdowns and averages 32.8 yds per kick return and 21.4 yds/return on punts. He has overcome a "shaky" start to become the multi-purpose weapon that the Utes thought he would be when signing him to a LOI.

ISU's punter is averaging 40.3 yds a punt with a net of 37.2. ISU gives up an average of 23.6 yds on kick returns with the average starting position of the opponents being the 24 yard line.

Utah was able to play 2 games without a punt block and it appears that Sean Sellwood has quickened his tortoise pace on his punts. He is averaging an excellent 48.5 gross and 36.5 net. The Cyclones punt return team averages a pedestrian 6.6 yds and the kick return averages 24.1.

Look for Smithson to be a threat that can alter the game and help Utah's offense with short fields. If Utah can keep Iowa St. out from coming near Sellwood, this is definitely an area that favors Utah.

Advantage Utah

Summary

ISU is looking at this game to make a statement nationally, while Utah looks to see how they stack up against their best opponent to date. If Utah's offense struggles in the first half, this will be a nail biter. If the Utes can score a few early touchdowns and get the early lead, the Cyclones don't have the offense to come from behind.

Utah 38 ISU 21

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Interview with Kyle Whittingham

We caught Coach Whitt after practice and asked him about the BYE and Iowa State preparation.



Interview with Quarterbacks Coach Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson discusses the progression of Jordan Wynn and Terrence Cain, the BYE week, Iowa State prep, and his transition from player to coach on the sidelines.


Interview with Devonte Christopher

Devonte Christopher talks about his transition from quarterback to wide receiver and what kind of advantages that gives him and the other converted quarterbacks.