Football Fast Forward: Utah
The Pac-12 Networks launch August 15 and will broadcast at least one game from all 12 teams in our first month of football. We can't wait -- each school's Networks debut game is previewed here, with an assist from SB Nation. See if you will get Pac-12 Networks from your TV provider by visiting the Pac-12 Networks Channel Finder. Answers to frequently asked questions are at support.pac-12.org.
By Sean Reynolds, Block U
Utah is quickly becoming a team of firsts for the Pac-12. They were the first official Pac-12 team to play last season (a 27-10 Thursday night victory over Montana State), took part in the first-ever Pac-12 conference game (a 23-14 loss to USC) and now will be the first football team to ever play on the Pac-12 Network.
Utah's opponent, Northern Colorado, probably won't offer much in the way of true Pac-12 competition, but it is an important game for the Utes, who, like last year, find themselves in yet another transition season. Unlike 2011, however, the transition this year deals more with players and coaching than assimilating into a new conference.
For a bulk of last season, Utah was forced to play without its starting quarterback, Jordan Wynn, and took a great deal of hits because of it. Though they finished strong, the Utes started the conference season 0-4 and looked doomed to a less than spectacular inaugural Pac-12 season. Fortunately for their fans they got things worked out and finished strong enough to contend for the Pac-12 South Division. They ultimately lost out on a chance to play in the Pac-12 title game, but rebounded to beat Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
This year, with more quarterback depth, a stingier, and more experienced defense, and Jordan Wynn returning to the healthiest he's been since 2009, optimism is growing in Salt Lake that Utah will continue to build on what they started last year.
It begins on August 30th, a little over a month from now, against a Northern Colorado team in a bit of a transition of their own. It was only a few seasons ago — 2006 to be exact — the Bears were playing Division II football. Their jump to the FCS has been less than successful and has led the program in a prolonged drought - a rarity for a team that won two national championships in the '90s and produced mostly winning seasons.
Since joining the FCS as a member of the Big Sky Conference, Northern Colorado only managed to win eight games in five seasons (last year's campaign yielded no wins in 11 tries). For Utah, those numbers aren't exactly terrifying, but Utah can't get too cocky. As history has shown, FCS teams are certainly capable of upsetting FBS programs - even Pac-12 programs. Though the Bears failed to win any games last year, they were competitive in a few of those games, iincluding a 10-point loss to Big Sky co-champion Montana State.
The Utes will be the heavy favorites for a reason and should win this one by more than a couple scores. After last year's lackluster opener against Montana State, fans are eyeing this one to see just how much progress there has been for Wynn and the offense since last season.
Utah's opener might not provide too difficult of an opponent, but with a new offensive coordinator (Brian Johnson, who is only in his mid-20s) and Wynn returning for the first time since September 2011, it provides the perfect opportunity to work out all the kinks before the meat of the schedule really begins.
Here's hoping the Utes offer an exciting opening game for the Pac-12 Network and exit the first week of the college football season 1-0.
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