Utah and the PAC-12-Only Schedule

by Zach Reger | Sports in 2020… will they happen? Sports fans everywhere are remaining optimistic, but even the most die-hard fans are not 100% sure what will happen. Here in late July, sports are slowly coming back. The MLB has started, and the NHL and NBA are starting soon. That is great for professional sports, but what’s going on with college sports?

The PAC-12 seems to be the furthest along in finalizing a plan for the 2020 season. Their theme: flexibility. PAC-12 officials will continue to monitor COVID-19 cases and trends throughout this process and the season. Their plan includes a 10-game, conference-only schedule that will begin September 19. This was supposed to be Week 3 of the season, but this extra time allows the season to be pushed back if needed. The players will report to camp mid-August, whenever the local health officials give the all-clear. The schedule itself will have teams play their 5 division rivals and 5 of the 6 teams from the other division. There will be two built-in bye-weeks to allow breaks in the season and allow for make-up games to be played. Allegiant Stadium has also shown both flexibility and a commitment to hosting the 2020 PAC-12 Championship Game. In the PAC-12’s plan, the championship game will be played on one of the first three weekends of December. December 4th is the best-case scenario, but December 11th and 18th are also possibilities. So how will this schedule look for Utah?

Team schedules will likely have to be shuffled around since Utah currently doesn’t have a PAC-12 opponent scheduled for September 19th. It would be one thing if it were as easy as penciling in a school like Oregon, that is also without a PAC-12 rival on the 19th, into this empty slot. Unfortunately, both these teams are currently scheduled to play 4 home games and 5 away games, leaving one of these teams to play an absurd 6 games away from home, if they play the 19th. Even with the schedules getting changed completely, Oregon still seems to be the likely bet for Utah to play. If this is the case, Utah will definitely circle this date on the calendar, as Oregon kept the Utes from becoming PAC-12 champions and knocked them out of the school’s first chance at a College Football Playoff appearance last season. So how will the Utes fare in 2020?

Utah was great in PAC-12 play last season, only losing one conference game in the regular season. The 2020 Utes will look a lot different, however, on both sides of the ball. Currently, the Utes have the fifth-best odds to win the PAC-12 in 2020 at 9/1. USC, Oregon, Washington, and Washington State all have a better chance to win the PAC-12 right now, according to Vegas. Luckily 3 of those 4 teams are in the PAC-12 North, which is the stronger division in the PAC-12. Utah did lose a lot of starters, but they should still be able to win most of their PAC-12 South games and make a run at the division, with USC being their only threat to a third-consecutive PAC-12 South title.

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