Kyle Whittingham got a decent read last week on how his team handles pressure. With ESPN’s College Game Day in Salt Lake City for Utah’s meeting with No. 23 California, the Utes responded with a 30-24 win over the Golden Bears to improve to 5-0 and climb to No. 4 in the AP poll.
“They handled their business real well,” Whittingham said.
It’s only going to get harder from here. Utah is the lone undefeated team in the Pac-12, the College Football Playoff has entered the local lexicon, the crowds and media are getting louder and the rest of the conference is eyeing the Utes with an added sense of anticipation.
Whittingham has been down this road before. The Utes went 13-0 in 2008 and defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to finish as the nation’s lone undefeated team. Despite that achievement, they finished second to Florida (13-1) at a time when the polls were even more flawed than they are now.
“You’ve got to disregard the outside noise,” Whittingham said of his 2008 experience. “You have to have your guys stay focused and worry about nothing but the task at hand. It boils down to preparing the right way; having great practices and working hard during practices and film study in the off time.”
Whittingham insists his team has a strong core of leaders who are preaching the same thing the coaches are.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue to just work hard and focus on what we’re doing and not get distracted,” he said.
The conference hasn’t produced an undefeated team since USC went 13-0 in 2004 and captured the national championship before it was stripped of that title due to violations regarding former running back Reggie Bush. Utah’s road is difficult, starting with recent nemesis Arizona State.
Here’s a look at the Utes’ remaining schedule with a focus on the remaining matchups.
Utah Utes 2015 schedule
Sept 3: beat Michigan, 24-17
Sept. 11: beat Utah State, 24-17
Sept. 19: beat Fresno State, 45-24
Sept. 26: beat Oregon, 62-20
Oct. 10: beat Cal, 30-24
Oct. 17: vs. Arizona State
Oct. 24: at USC
Oct 31: vs. Oregon State
Nov. 7: at Washington
Nov. 14: at Arizona
Nov 21: vs. UCLA
Nov. 28 vs. Colorado
All time-record vs. Sun Devils: 6-20
2014 meeting: ASU 19, Utah, 16 (OT)
Streak: ASU has won 11 straight games dating to 1977.
Key stat: Utah has averaged 14 points in the last four meetings since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.
All time-record vs. Trojans: 4-9
2014 meeting: Utah 24, USC 21
Streak: USC has won three of the four Pac-12 meetings.
Key stat: Utah beat USC last season to snap a three-game Pac-12 losing streak against the Trojans. The Utes’ only other victory over the Trojans since 1916 came in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl.
All time-record vs. Beavers: 7-11-1
2014 meeting: Utah 29, Oregon State 23 (2OT)
Streak: Neither team has won more than two in a row since 1968.
Key stat: The last two meetings have gone to overtime.
All time-record vs. Huskies: 0-8
Last meeting: Washington 34, Utah 15 (2012)
Streak: Washington has won eight straight.
Key stat: Utah has never scored more than 15 points against the Huskies.
All time-record vs. Wildcats: 20-18-2
2014 meeting: Arizona 42, Utah 10
Streak: Arizona has won three straight meetings.
Key stat: Utah has allowed a combined 111 points to Arizona in their last three meetings, but Arizona is the only current conference member against which the Utes have a winning record.
All time-record vs. Bruins: 3-10
2014 meeting: UCLA 24, Utah 21
Streak: Utah has won three of four meetings since joining the Pac-12.
Key stat: The last three meetings have been decided by seven points or less.
All time-record vs. Buffaloes: 27-31-3
2014 meeting: Utah 38, Colorado 34
Streak: Utah has won the last three meetings.
Key stat: All four Pac-12 meetings have been decided by seven points or less.