- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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We've done our bowl primers, but now we take a quick look at teams that are sitting at home this holiday season.
UTAH (5-7, 3-6)
What went wrong this season? It didn't take long for things to go wrong. First, quarterback Jordan Wynn was forced to retire due to recurrent shoulder injuries. He was knocked out in the second quarter of the Utah State game in Week 2, an upset loss for the Utes (though Utah State would go on to finish 11-2). After a nice win over BYU, the Utes went down hard at Arizona State, 37-7. New players at linebacker and offensive tackle struggled. Coach Kyle Whittingham opted to go with true freshman Travis Wilson at quarterback, and that produced mixed results, as could be expected. The offense struggled, as running back John White didn't recover his 2011 form, and the defense was inconsistent. Not unlike last year, the Utes bounced back from an 0-4 start in conference play with consecutive victories. But, unlike last year, that momentum wouldn't continue, as the Utes posted their first losing record since 2002.
Low point: Utah, at 4-6, welcomed Arizona to town on a Nov. 17 needing to win to have a shot at bowl eligibility (woeful Colorado was the final opponent, but the Utes did lose at home to the Buffs the year before). The Utes led 24-17 entering the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats scored 17 unanswered points to win 34-24. Thus a 9-year run of bowl games -- 8-1 record -- ended.
How can it get fixed? Utah has been competitive its first two years in the Pac-12, but if it wants to escape the muddled middle, it's going to need to stock up its depth and recruit better playmakers. Wilson is promising. If he continues to progress, he could become an A-list performer. But he's going to need better protections and better weapons around him. Even though the defense took a step back, it's not the problem. It's difficult to win in this conference scoring 26 points per game.
Bowling in 2013? The Utes have a solid shot to go bowling in 2013, but they may need a 3-0 start in nonconference play (Utah State, Weber State, at BYU) because the conference schedule is much tougher than the previous two seasons. The Utes miss California and Washington and pick up Oregon and Stanford. That doesn't feel like a good trade. The good news is five home conference games (seven total). Still, it's difficult to project more than six wins next year.