Big 12 News

Utah Accustomed To Being New Team In A Power Conference

NCAA Football: Utah Spring Game

LAS VEGAS — Change is something Utah Utes football coach Kyle Whittingham is used to in his 19-year tenure in Salt Lake City.

In fact, he can list all of the conferences the programs has been a part of since he took over for Urban Meyer.

“This is actually the fourth conference I’ve been in since I’ve been at Utah — the WAC, the Mountain West and the Pac-12,” Whittingham said. “Now it’s the Big 12, so nothing new for me personally as far as changing leagues.”


What is now is that Utah is coming into the Big 12 as a favorite to win the league in its first season and claim the league’s berth in the College Football Playoff. That wasn’t the case when the Utes made the move from the Mountain West to the Pac-12.

“When we went to the Pac-12, we were a G5 (group of five) school, and we were coming up a level, so there was a bit of a transition we had to endure there. … But we feel like we’ve got a roster that’s equipped to compete right away.

Utah is one of four schools from the Pac-12 that are moving to the Big 12 in August. Arizona, Arizona, and Colorado are joining the Utes. Utah joined the Pac-12 for the 2012 season, but before that, it was in the Mountain West Conference and the WAC.   

The Utes went 8-5 last season, with a 5-4 record in the Pac-12. Utah played the season without veteran quarterback Cam Rising, who was hurt. The season ended with a loss to Northwestern in the Las Vegas Bowl.


Rising is back for the Utes and has 6,500 combined yards in his time with Utah. He’ll be one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the Big 12. The appropriately named Money Parks is back at wide receiver, and tackle Spencer Fano was a Freshman All-America pick. But the Utes only have four returning starters on offense.

Seven starters are expected back on defense, a unit that allowed just 19.3 points per game. But, the Utes must replace the production of All-America defensive end Jonah Elliss (now in the NFL) and last year’s leading tackler, linebacker Levani Danubi (out for the season due to injury).

The Utes start non-conference with a home game against FCS school Southern Utah on Aug. 29. After that the Utes host Baylor on Sept. 7, originally a non-conference game before Utah joined the Big 12. It will remain a non-league game. Utah wraps up non-league action on Sept. 14 at Utah State.

Utah’s Big 12 slate starts with a road trip to Oklahoma State on Sept. 21, followed by a home game with Arizona on Sept. 28.

In October the Utes travel to Arizona State on Oct. 11, host TCU on Oct. 19 and travel to Houston on Oct. 26.   

November brings four league games, starting with a renewal of the “Holy War” with BYU in Salt Lake City on Nov. 9. Utah is at Colorado on Nov. 16, hosts Iowa State on Nov. 23 and travels to UCF on Nov. 29.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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