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Utah Football: Utes' 2022 Schedule Analysis

Cameron Rising, Utah Utes Football

Cameron Rising and the Utes take on Florida on the road and get a shot at some payback against San Diego State before opening defense of their Pac-12 title

Utah's road to repeating as Pac-12 champions will be built on the shoulders of a highly skilled and experienced team. The Utes will once again be the class of the league and be a preseason favorite to hoist the championship trophy again in December.

Related: Spring 2022 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Returning stars Cameron Rising, Tavion Thomas and Brant Kuithe will once again power Utah's offense. The Utes replace a few standouts on defense, including Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell, but the nucleus is there for an elite unit again. Their secondary, led by Clark Phillips III and Cole Bishop, will be improved with several defensive backs back from injury. Special teams is the only real question mark. Punting and placekicking were both inconsistent for Utah last season and Britain Covey leaves a giant void at punt returner and kick returner.

The schedule will test Utah in 2022, but it isn't anything the Utes aren't equipped to handle. Notable road opponents include Florida, Oregon, Washington State, and UCLA. USC, San Diego State, and Oregon State headline the home slate.

Utah Utes' 2022 Schedule

Bye: Week 8

Week 1 – Sept. 3 at Florida (Gainesville, Fla.)

New Gators head coach Billy Napier will make his debut against the Utes. Napier had tremendous success in four seasons at Louisiana, guiding the Ragin' Cajuns to a 39-12 record, one Sun Belt title, and four bowl appearances. Florida is coming off a 6-7 season where it lost five of its last seven games. The Gators have a rising star at quarterback with Anthony Richardson and are expected to make strides forward on defense.

Week 2 – Sept. 10 vs. Southern Utah (Salt Lake City)

Utah has not lost to a current Big Sky Conference team since falling 28-17 to Idaho in 1993. The Thunderbirds aren't going to be the team to end that winning streak. Southern Utah has won just six games over the last four seasons – including back-to-back one-win campaigns – leaving first-year head coach DeLane Fitzgerald with a massive rebuilding project. Utah beat the T-Birds 24-0 when the two in-state foes last met in 2016.

Week 3 – Sept. 17 vs. San Diego State (Salt Lake City)

Revenge will be on Utah's mind after the Aztecs outlasted the Utes 33-31 in triple overtime a year ago. Utah nearly rallied for a win after Charlie Brewer was benched in the second half in favor of Rising. San Diego State regularly flummoxes opponents with a tough defense. Last year, the Aztecs allowed just 19.8 points and 325.1 yards per game – ranking in the top 20 nationally in both categories. Offensively, San Diego State will need to find a successor to running back Greg Bell who racked up 1,091 yards on the ground last season.

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Week 4 – Sept. 24 at Arizona State (Tempe, Ariz.)

The Sun Devils may take a step back after seeing several key players hit the transfer portal – including quarterback Jayden Daniels, who joined LSU in the offseason. Five players are vying to replace Daniels as the primary signal-caller and nothing was settled after spring practices wrapped up. Arizona State has lost two straight in the series with Utah. The Sun Devils have never lost three games in a row to the Utes.

Week 5 – Oct. 1 vs. Oregon State (Salt Lake City)

Utah suffered its only loss to a Pac-12 opponent last season when the Beavers pulled away in the second half for a 42-34 victory. It snapped a five-game winning streak in the series for the Utes. Oregon State's biggest task will be replacing B.J. Baylor in the backfield. Baylor led the Pac-12 with 1,336 rushing yards last season. Having Chance Nolan back at quarterback will help make the transition smoother.

Week 6 – Oct. 8 at UCLA (Los Angeles)

The Bruins are coming off their best season to date under Chip Kelly. UCLA went 8-4 overall and finished second to Utah in the Pac-12 South. The Bruins will be solid on offense again with quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and running Zach Charbonnet back for another season. Getting over the hump against the Utes will be a challenge. Utah has won five straight in the series, averaging 46.8 points per game in those contests.

Week 7 – Oct. 15 vs. USC (Salt Lake City)

Expectations are sky high for the Trojans in year one under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma head coach made a name for himself with a high-flying, high-octane offense that helped the Sooners dominate the Big 12. Riley will have his quarterback from Oklahoma, Caleb Williams, as the trigger man for USC's potent passing attack. Williams threw for 1,912 yards and 21 touchdowns for Oklahoma a year ago. The Trojans have lost three of their last four road contests against Utah.

Week 9 – Oct. 27 at Washington State (Pullman, Wash.)

Utah survived a spate of turnovers to upend the Cougars 24-13 last season, their third straight win in the series. It marked a turning point for the Utes and helped the team rebound from a 1-2 start. Washington State will have a new starting quarterback in Jake Dickert's first full season as head coach. Sophomore transfer Cameron Ward will likely get the nod as signal-caller after a strong spring. Ward threw for 4,648 yards and 47 touchdowns at FCS Incarnate Word a year ago.

Week 10 – Nov. 5 vs. Arizona (Salt Lake City)

The Wildcats put together an impressive recruiting class entering Judd Fisch's second year at the helm. Arizona will be a team on the rise with Washington State transfer quarterback Jayden de Laura leading a totally revamped offense. De Laura threw for 2,798 yards and 23 touchdowns last season. Beating the Utes will be a tall task. Arizona has lost five straight to Utah, most recently falling 38-29 a year ago.

Week 11 – Nov. 12 vs. Stanford (Salt Lake City)

Utah dominated the Cardinal in every phase of the game en route to a 52-7 blowout victory last season. Stanford totaled 167 yards, most of it coming in garbage time, and lost for the sixth time in its last eight contests versus the Utes. An inability to run the ball has led to the Cardinal plummeting to the bottom of the Pac-12 North. Stanford won't likely find answers against Utah's tough defense, even if it makes major strides in the right direction this season.

Week 12 – Nov. 20 at Oregon (Eugene, Ore.)

Can the Ducks close the gap with Utah? The Utes plucked the Ducks in a pair of blowout losses last season. Oregon totaled 17 points and 515 yards over the two contests. The Ducks have a new head coach in Dan Lanning and a new quarterback in Bo Nix. A transfer from Auburn, Nix threw for 7,251 yards and 39 touchdowns over three seasons with the Tigers. Lanning came to Eugene from Georgia where he oversaw a defense that allowed 10.2 points and 267.9 yards per game last season.

Week 13 – Nov. 27 at Colorado (Boulder, Colo.)

Since renewing the Rumble in the Rockies in 2011, the Utes have had Colorado's number. The Buffaloes have beaten Utah twice in the last 13 meetings between the two rivals. Utah defeated Colorado 28-13 last season after holding the Buffaloes to 148 total yards and nine first downs. Colorado will need a huge step forward from returning starting quarterback Brendon Lewis or Tennessee transfer JT Shrout to improve one of the nation's worst offenses a year ago.

Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sports journalist based in Utah. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.