- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Before we focus forward, we're going to look back with team-by-team season reviews.
We continue in reverse alphabetical order.
MVP: DT Star Lotulelei was the only Utah position player to earn first-team All-Pac-12 honors. He ranked sixth on the team with 42 tackles and led the Utes with 10 tackles for a loss. He also had five sacks, four batted down passes, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles.
What went right: A season is never a total wash when you beat your top rival, as the Utes did BYU -- an odd and thrilling 24-21 victory that served as a salve for the loss to Utah State the previous week. The Utes three conference wins came over California, Washington State and Colorado, so they didn't blow a game against an inferior team. There were hints that true freshman Travis Wilson has the makings of a top-flight QB. Reggie Dunn was sensational as a kick returner, earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors. He set the NCAA single-season record with four 100-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns, which also gave him the career mark with five.
What went wrong: In the preseason, the Utes looked like the No. 2 team in the South Divisions behind USC, meaning looks were deceiving for more than just the Trojans. Utah, which finished 5-7 overall and 3-6 in the conference, didn't go to a bowl game for the first time since 2002, so year two in the Pac-12 was a bummer. The loss at Utah State in Week 2 felt like a major upset, but the Aggies finished 11-2 and ranked 16th. Most important detail of that game: QB Jordan Wynn was lost for the season to a shoulder injury that would end his career. After the BYU win, things mostly went downhill from there, starting with the 37-7 unmasking at Arizona State in the Pac-12 opener that seemed to set a negative trajectory for the season. After an 0-4 start in conference play for a second consecutive year, the Utes bounced back with consecutive wins. But double-digit losses to Washington and Arizona ended bowl hopes. There were problems on both sides of the ball, and -- other than Dunn -- the special teams weren't exactly great either. The Utes ranked eighth in the conference in scoring offense and 11th in total offense. They were ninth in rushing offense, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry, and last in passing offense. The defense was surprisingly mediocre, ranking seventh in the conference in scoring (25.1).
2013 Outlook: The Utes welcome back 12 position player starters, but have significant issues on both lines. They lose three starters from their offensive line, including left tackle Sam Brenner, who earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors. They lose three starters from the defensive line, including Lotulelei, an almost certain top-10 NFL draft pick. They also lose RB John White and WR DeVonte Christopher, who both had disappointing senior seasons. Is backup RB Kelvin York ready to be The Man? And will Wilson take a step forward in his second year as a starter? Will the underwhelming linebackers improve, even with the loss of their protection up front? Further, the schedule, though it includes seven home games, ramps up in difficulty. After missing Oregon and Stanford their first two Pac-12 seasons, they get both North Division powers this fall. Getting back to a bowl game will be a challenge.
2dCraig Haubert and Tom Luginbill