SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Sports) - After starting 0-4 in the Pac-12 Conference for the second straight year, the Utes football team has heard the talk around town. Does Utah have Pac-12 talent yet?
"We feel like we can win in this conference," said tight end Jake Murphy. "I hear people say that maybe it will take a couple years to get the athletes to compete in the Pac-12. But we feel like we can do that right now."
On defense, there is no question. Utah is second in the conference, allowing 333 yards per game. But on offense, they are struggling mightily. The Utes are 11th in rushing, 11th in passing and dead last in total offense.
"I think we can definitely match [Pac-12 teams] position for position," said freshman quarterback Travis Wilson. "We're playing hard and having good weeks of practice, but for some reason it's just not been working out. But I feel like there hasn't been a team that has out-manned us."
"We can match up with USC, Cal, Oregon State and Oregon," said safety Eric Rowe. "It just comes down to the mental part of the game."
The good news for the Utes is the most difficult part of their schedule is now over. Utah plays three of its next four games at home starting Saturday against a struggling Cal team.
"We've certainly played a lot of good football teams," said head coach Kyle Whittingham, who is 4-9 in Pac-12 play. "All we're worried about right now is Cal-Berkeley. They've struggled this year putting it all together, but they are a dangerous team. They're very talented on both sides of the football. They've had struggles much like we have, but make no mistake, they are one of the more talented teams in the conference."
Utah knows what it has to do in its final five games. They must win at least four of them to become bowl eligible for the 10th straight year.
"We definitely don't want to be that team that ends the streak and doesn't make it to a bowl game," said Wilson. "We just have to make sure we get this win on Saturday because I think one win will turn this thing around."
"It's been hard in the locker room," added Rowe. "It's been frustrating, but we're a team that is not going to quit."