Utah prepares to open their season against an FCS school for the second year in a row. Unlike the 2011 opener when Utah faced a quality Montana State squad, simply put Northern Colordao is not a good football team. The Bears from Greeley are small, lack athleticism, and are struggling to adapt to life as an FCS football program after moving up from Division II ball in 2006. Thursday's season opener should be little more than a warm-up for a Utah team that is looking to compete for the Pac-12 South division crown.
Northern Colorado did not win a game in 2011 under first-year head coach Earnest Collins, Jr., and were rarely competitive, losing eight of their 11 games by 10 or more points, and five by 20 or more. The Bears struggled in all three phases of the game and do not look to be much better in 2012, though some incoming transfers are expected to help a defense that allowed nearly 35 points per game. There are a few good players for the Bears, and they could make the game interesting early on should the Utes enter the game believing they will win easily just by walking out the tunnel.
Utah experienced plenty of growing pains in their first season in the Pac-12. A slow start to the conference season plus a shocking loss to a poor Colorado team derailed any hopes of representing the South in the first Pac-12 title game. Utah did go 4-0 in non-conference play, including a win over Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. Brian Johnson becomes Utah's fifth offensive coordinator in the past four years (Andy Ludwig in 2009, Dave Schramm and Aaron Roderick in 2010, Norm Chow in 2011), taking over play-calling duties as the youngest coordinator in FBS football. Utah's offense has struggled at times with all the changes at coordinator, and getting the offense going against a poor UNC defense might give the group the confidence they need to start the season strong.