Midseason Report: Utah

Utah Utes

Record: 5-0, (2-0 MWC)

There were question marks surrounding Utah going into the season because the Utes had to replace seven starters on defense, including all the starting linebackers and three starting defensive backs. But watching the way Utah has started the season, you would never know it has such a young unit. The defense came together right away, shutting down Dion Lewis in the season-opening win against Pittsburgh. Though many questioned the strength of schedule because of wins over UNLV, New Mexico and San Jose State, Utah answered the doubters with a whopping 68-27 at Iowa State last Saturday. The Utes have outscored opponents 101-7 in the second quarter. Jordan Wynn has played well, but so has Terrance Cain, who started two games while Wynn sat out with a sprained thumb. The new linebackers -- Matt Martinez, Chaz Walker and Chad Manis -- have been outstanding. True freshman safety Brian Blechen is playing well. Shaky Smithson has been incredible on special teams. And coach Kyle Whittingham says this is his best team in the way of chemistry in 16 years at Utah. But the end of the season is a doozy. Starting Oct. 30, Utah plays at Air Force, then a huge game against TCU, at Notre Dame, at San Diego State and BYU.

Offensive MVP: QBs Jordan Wynn and Terrance Cain. Split honors here, and Whittingham would most likely approve because he has praised the unselfishness of this team. Wynn has played well, but Cain stepped in and the Utes didn’t miss a beat when Wynn was hurt. Combined, the two have thrown for 1,215 yards, 12 touchdowns, two interceptions and have completed 71 percent of their passes.

Defensive MVP: MLB Chaz Walker. Walker began his career as a walk-on but has quickly flourished in his new starting role. He leads the team in tackles with 42, ranking sixth in the Mountain West in tackles per game (8.4). Martinez and Manis deserve mention here, too, as the three starting linebackers are ranked 1-2-3 on the team in tackles.