Utah receiver Dres Anderson is one of the Utes' top returning starters. (Scott Olmos / USA Today Sports / November 16, 2013)
The Orlando Sentinel's college insider Matt Murschel has ranked all 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country entering the 2014 season. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 128 to our projected No. 1 team.
Today at No. 101: Utah Utes
Coach: Kyle Whittingham (76-39, entering 10th season; 76-39 overall)
2013 record: 5-7 (2-7 in Pac-12 Conference, 5th in South Division)
Look back: After winning four of its first six games, Utah struggled in Pac-12 play and went on a five-game losing streak. A mix of injuries and costly mistakes late in contests haunted the Utes. After surging into the national spotlight as a BCS buster and earning an invitation to jump from the Mountain West to the Pac-12, Utah has struggled to find its footing as a member of a Power 5 conference. The 2013 5-7 campaign marked the first time in 23 years Utah posted back-to-back losing seasons. The five-game losing streak was the team's longest since a six-game skid was in 2002.
Offensive starters returning: 8
Offensive starters lost: 3
Defensive starters returning: 7
Defensive starters lost: 4
Key losses: C Vyncent Jones, LG Jeremiah Tofaeono, WR Anthony Denham, WR Sean Fitzgerald, TE Jake Murphy, DE Trevor Reilly, DT Tenny Palepoi, DT LT Tuipulotu, CB Keith McGill, SAF Michael Walker, NB Mike Honeycutt
Top returnees: WR Dres Anderson, QB Travis Wilson, DB Brian Blechen, DE Nate Orchard, OL Jeremiah Poutasi, DB Eric Rowe, OG Junior Salt, WR Kenneth Scott, LB Jason Whittingham, K Andy Phillips and P Tom Hackett
Strengths: Quarterback Travis Wilson's season was sidelined last season following complications from a concussion. He has been cleared to practice. If he remains healthy, Wilson can help the Utes better compete against the high-powered offenses in the Pac-12. He will have a variety of weapons at his disposal, with receiver Dres Anderson (53 catches, 1,002 yards, seven touchdowns) and a solid rotation of running backs. The Utes also seem confident in their offensive-line depth.
Weaknesses: Utah's secondary struggled to contain teams in the pass-heavy Pac-12, ranking No. 109 out of 123 teams nationally in pass defense (267.3 yards allowed per game.) The team's turnover margin also was troubling, ranking No. 112 nationally (-0.8).
A rash of injuries has exposed the Utes' lack of depth. While more practice and playing time for reserves should pay off in the long run, it still appears Utah would have a big headache on its hands if key players like Wilson can't stay on the field.
Outlook: Coach Kyle Whittingham has posted a 7-1 bowl record, including a Sugar Bowl win to cap a 13-0 perfect 2008 season. Utah fans are rabid and loyal to Whittingham, but the Utes are getting restless about winning in the Pac-12.
Aug. 28 Idaho State
Sept. 6 Fresno State
Sept. 20 at Michigan
Sept. 27 Washington State