While many Utah football fans may be a little apprehensive about the success their team is going to have in its first year in the Pac-12 Conference, opposing players and coaches alike think Utah is going to do just fine.
"Just look at their success the last five years, it's unbelievable," said USC head coach Lane Kiffin and the Pac-12 Media Day this week in Los Angeles.
"I've watched them play a number of times and they're very talented," added Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson.
"I think they're a very dangerous football team," warned Cal head coach Jeff Tedford.
"I don't think any of the players in this conference are going to take Utah lightly or treat them not like an equal," said Stanford quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Andrew Luck.
Utah was picked to finish 3rd in the Pac-12 South Division behind USC and Arizona State. I think that's probably a best case scenario. Utah has never before faced this kind of talent week-in and week-out. Most of the coaches I talked to agreed that was going to be Utah's biggest challenge, and I think it's going to take at least a few years to get used to it.
Utah's depth is going to be severely tested. They haven't had to take this kind of physical pounding on a consistent basis before. Until they bring in a few seasons of Pac-12 type recruits, the Utes will most likely have trouble measuring up to the kind of athletes they'll see on a weekly basis.
That being said, the Utes might be in prime position to make a run at the South Division championship this year. The Utes don't have to play the top two teams in the conference, Oregon and Stanford. USC certainly isn't the team they've been in the past. Arizona State? Maybe. The Utes have an experienced quarterback, a deep and physical offensive line, and the best defensive line they've had in recent history. So if they can somehow win the South and get into the Pac-12 Championship Game, who knows what can happen?
One thing is for sure, no city is more excited about this year's Pac-12 season than Salt Lake City. At least, judging by the turnout at Media Day, that is certainly the case. All four television stations, three radio stations, and several reporters from both newspapers made the trip to L.A. In fact, there were more Salt Lake media members there than Los Angeles media members. Several coaches came up to me and said something like, "Another Salt Lake station? Jeez, I've talked more about the Utes today than I have my own team!"
Let's hope everybody is still talking about Utah when the season ends.