Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre wants his current players to get much stronger to compete in the Pac-12. Utah's Kyle Whittingham wants to recruit faster receivers and defensive backs. The challenge for both schools is that the South just keeps getting tougher. Arizona State, UCLA and Arizona have improved after coaching changes in the last two years and USC already is doing so, even while searching for Lane Kiffin's replacement.
Over three seasons, Utah (8-18) ranks ninth in the Pac-12 and Colorado (4-22) is last.
MacIntyre faced Utah in his first season as San Jose State's coach, losing 56-3 in 2010. "They were talented, and I see talent on the field now a lot of talent," he said.
Whittingham says the Utes have improved in three seasons in the conference, but lack depth. He contends his top-tier personnel is of Pac-12 quality. Yet Utah's 2008 roster included 15 players who are currently in the NFL or have spent significant time in the league and do the Utes have 15 future pros right now?
A coaching staff that seemingly was designed for recruiting purposes is at a critical stage, while having to overcome the perception of consecutive losing seasons.
For the first time, Whittingham attributed Utah's five-game losing streak to quarterback Travis Wilson's hand injury and his subsequent concussion, although he took about two-thirds of the snaps in three games. The solution to Utah's skid following a win over Stanford is "not losing your quarterback the next week," Whittingham said Tuesday during the Pac-12's media teleconference. "That's what that's all about."
Assuming they'll beat Colorado, the Utes will miss bowl eligibility by one game for the second year in a row. Looking back, stopping a fourth-and-9 play when they led Oregon State by one point late in the game probably would been sufficient.
Going forward, this stuff will not get any easier. Utah will play five of nine conference games on the road and substitute Michigan and Fresno State for Utah State and BYU in nonconference play in 2014.
Tough league, getting tougher
Records in Pac-12 play since 2011:
Arizona State 16-10
Oregon State 13-13
Washington State 7-19