(That's a lot of letters for so few words!)
As Oregon St. gets ready for the conclusion of "Utahfest", Sean Reynolds, who covers the Utes at BlockU.com, and I got together to trade questions and answers about the two teams, and get both fan bases up-to-date.
Here's what Sean, aka the "JazzyUte", was curious about, and my attempts at answers.
And here are Sean's thoughts on the Utes:
Is Travis Wilson capable of being the real deal? And if so, can he do it this year? Or is Coach Whittingham already working on next year?
I think he is. He was a legitimate prospect coming out of high school and looked pretty solid in his debut ... though, obviously, it didn't amount to much as Utah still lost 21-14. With experience, and more offensive depth and progression, I'm convinced he can lead this team to some solid seasons.
Whether that's this season or next, I can't say. I really don't expect him to blow it up in the next six games, so, I guess to your question ... I'm guessing Kyle Whittingham is mostly prepping him for the future.
Similarly, will Whittingham stick with Wilson unless he gets hurt? (Like Mike Riley did last year with Sean Mannion last year, short term results be danged.) Or might we see a switch back to Jon Hays if Wilson struggles?
I think so. I don't anticipate him going back to Hays. I don't think it's smart for coaches to take young talent, throw them out there and then pull them because they're struggling with growing pains. Whittingham committed to Wilson and he damn well better stick this one through because I really believe there is no turning back now.
Is John White IV healthy? We have seen both his carries and his yardage drop compared to last year, even after he returned from injury, and was supposedly ready to go?
He looked healthy against UCLA, though, he was limited in his carries. It's definitely been a tough year for White because of being injured and the woeful offensive line play. He has solid YPC the last two games, but not many touches, which is definitely perplexing. I expect to see him run the ball more Saturday.
DeVonte Christopher and Dres Anderson, above, should be as dangerous a pair of receivers as the more well known duos at USC and OSU, no matter who is at quarterback. Are opposing defenses doing something in particular to take them away at least part of the time that Utah hasn't been able to counter?
It's hard to say because Hays really struggled moving the ball through the air. He's never thrown for 200 yards or more, so, I'm guessing most defenses didn't have to worry about the passing game beating ‘em.
It remains to be seen, however, what Wilson can do through the air. The coaches drew up way more pass plays last week against the Bruins, and he passed for more yards in his first game than Hays ever did in his twelve starts for the Utes.
Coach Whittingham has a proven track record as a very good defensive coach, yet the Utah back 7 in particular seems very erratic, and therefore very vulnerable. What happened? Are there more injuries than we realize? Is there too much youth?
There was some concern in the preseason that this could be an issue, but the coaches didn't seem nearly as worried about it as they maybe should have been. The entire defense has had an up and down season and it's certainly not what we're used to here in Utah.
I think a big issue is experience, but also continuity and discipline. I've never seen Utah's defense play this undisciplined before and it's unfortunately led to some massive mental mistakes that have cost the team a couple games.
Now that Utah is well into its second recruiting year as a member of the Pac-12, are you seeing the bump up in the quality of commits that was expected?
I think so. We were talking about Wilson, and there's one right there that I do not believe Utah lands if they're not in the Pac-12. The Utes also picked up the commitment recently of quarterback Brandon Cox, who holds a lot of promise.
The big question I think for most Utah fans is whether or not the recruiting can keep up with the Pac-12. While we've definitely improved, it's all relative, you know?
We've seem that there are actually some fans already starting to call for Whittingham to be replaced(!). But its administrators and those that contribute 6-7 figure amounts that matter. Are there any key boosters that are sufficiently powerful (read big enough contributors) to drive such a change that are of this mindset? How about the administration?
They're idiots. Seriously.
Any fan who thinks Whittingham, who's produced a perfect season, won all but one of his bowl games, and never had a losing season, should get the ax is absolutely in need of a smack to the head. I don't think anyone outside a very small, albeit vocal, minority thinks Whittingham's job is in any jeopardy.
Thanks, Sean! It's always good to get your take on the Utes, and the Pac!
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)