by Mitch Brunner
The University of Utah football team has high expectations for the upcoming season. With aspirations of making the Pac-12 Championship along with the College Football Playoff, the Utes need to be ready for what they’re up against. They will have a difficult, but manageable schedule. Below is a breakdown of every game on the schedule.
Game 1: vs Weber State Wildcats
Date – Thursday, September 2, 2021
Last Matchup – The Utes won 41-10 over the Weber State Wildcats in 2018.
Keys to Victory – The Utes need to get off to a fast start unlike the first ever meeting where they went down 10-0 early and gave the Wildcats belief that they could compete.
Notes – Weber State is coming off their fourth straight Big Sky Championship. This is the home opener for the Utes and will be played on a Thursday night. The benefits of opening the season on a Thursday night is Utah will have extra rest going into week two which happens to be against another in-state opponent.
Game 2: @ BYU Cougars
Date – Saturday, September 11, 2021
Last Matchup – The Utes beat BYU 30-12 in 2019.
Keys to Victory – Don’t allow drives to extend due to penalties. Throw out records and previous results in a rivalry game and have more desire for victory than the opponent.
Notes – Utah has won nine straight against BYU. The Cougars open the season at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada playing Arizona. The Utes will be at home watching film on that game since their home opener vs Weber State is two days before.
Game 3: @ San Diego State Aztecs
Date – Saturday, September 18, 2021
Last Matchup – The Utes beat the Aztecs 38-34 in 2010.
Keys to Victory – Do not get caught looking ahead to the Pac 12 season opener the following week.
Notes – For the second time in as many weeks, Utah will be facing an opponent who played Arizona the week prior. Utah has won five straight games against the Aztecs. Head coach Brady Hoke will have the Aztecs ready to play. The Aztecs posted a 3-1 record at home last year in the shortened season.
Game 4: vs. Washington State Cougars
Date – Saturday, September 18, 2021
Last Matchup – The Utes beat Washington State 45-28 in 2020.
Keys to Victory – Get an early lead and set the tone.
Notes – Washington State struggled making second half adjustments last year. They scored only 14 points in the third quarter of their four games played. This was evident in last year’s matchup when the Cougars went up 28-7 on the Utes at halftime. Utah stormed back to win the game and piled on 38 points in the second half. This is the Pac-12 season opener for the Utes. Washington State will be coming off their league season opener vs USC and will be making their first road trip of the season after starting the first three at home.
Game 5: @ USC Trojans
Date – Friday, October 8, 2021
Last Matchup – The Utes lost 17-33 to the Trojans in 2020.
Keys to Victory- Stop the run and disguise blitzes.
Notes – In last year’s Pac-12 Championship game, the Oregon Ducks limited the Trojans to only 38 yards rushing on 28 attempts. USC’s Kedon Slovis will get his passing yardage. Stopping a pass-heavy offense is easier to do if it is evident that their plan is to pass on nearly every play. That is because they are only a one-dimension team in that case. Slovis had to throw the ball 52 times in last year’s Pac-12 Championship loss.
The Utes are on USC’s schedule a week before the Trojans travel 1800 miles across the country to face their rivals at Notre Dame. The Irish have beat USC in three straight matchups and USC will have the them circled on their calendar. This is a potential trap game for USC and Utah needs to capitalize.
Game 6: vs Arizona State Sun Devils
Date – Saturday, October 16, 2021
Last Matchup – Utah last beat Arizona State 21-3 in 2019.
Keys to Victory – Be Focused. Utah needs to circle, highlight, and underline this game on their schedule.
Notes – A win OR loss to USC the previous week makes this a tricky matchup either way. With a win, the celebrations could continue into the next week when preparations for ASU start. A loss to USC could be mentally demoralizing to a team that has high hopes going into 2021. Either way, the Utes will lose if they are not focused the following week. Arizona State averaged over 40 points per game last year and 264 yards rushing per game. BYU is a similiar opponent on the out-of-conference schedule.
Game 7: @ Oregon State Beavers
Last Matchup – The Utes beat the Beavers 30-24 in 2020.
Keys to Victory – Execute the game plan. This is a game on Utah’s schedule that will be a hard to get hyped up for.
Notes – Oregon State will be coming off their bye week. Last year at Rice–Eccles Stadium, Utah settled for field goals early and nearly allowed Oregon State to come from behind and win. Utah got the win. However, that type of play cannot happen this year on the road. The Utes will be taking the field in sleepy Corvallis, Oregon in the Pacific Northwest.
Game 8: vs UCLA Bruins
Date: Saturday, October 30, 2021
Last Matchup – the Utes won 49- 3 over the Bruins in 2019.
Keys to Victory – Slow down the Bruins offense. Even in their four losses last year, the Bruins put up 35, 38, 42, and 47 points.
Notes – Oregon visits UCLA the previous week. That happens to be previous college team that head coach Chip Kelly worked for. The Bruins will be extra focused on that game. This means they might be having a letdown game against the Utes in this game.
Game 9: @ Stanford Cardinal
Date: Friday, November 5, 2021
Last Matchup – Win 40-21 (2018)
Keys to Victory – Do not look at Stanford’s record as an indication of their talent. The Cardinal are playing one of the toughest schedules in the country.
Notes – Foes from the Big 12 and SEC are on the Cardinal schedule even before they get USC, Oregon, and Arizona State in league play.
Game 10: @ Arizona Wildcats
Date: Saturday, November 13, 2021
Last Matchup – The Utes beat Arizona 35-7 in 2019.
Keys to Victory – Don’t get caught on the road looking ahead to Oregon.
Notes – Even though most people are picking Arizona to finish last in the Pac-12, expect the Wildcats to be up for the challenge this week. This is Senior day and Military Appreciation day at the stadium. Both teams will be familiar with each other as they share two out-of-conference opponents. This will provide plenty of opportunities to check each other’s strategies on film.
Game 11: vs Oregon Ducks
Date: Saturday, November 20, 2021
Last Matchup – The Utes lost 15-37 to Oregon in 2020.
Keys to Victory – Establish the run game and control the clock.
Notes – Oregon hosts Washington State in the previous week. In the three losses for the Ducks last year, their opponents dominated the time of possession. Iowa State rushed 56 times in the Fiesta Bowl while limiting Oregon to 17 minutes of having the ball on offense.
Game 12: vs Colorado Buffaloes
Date – Friday, November 26, 2021
Last Matchup – The Utes beat the Buffaloes 38-21 in 2020.
Keys to Victory – Stop the run. That’s it.
Notes – Colorado returns dual-threat quarterback senior Sam Noyer and sophomore running back Jarek Broussard. Both of them rushed for five touchdowns last year. Colorado started last season 4-0 before losing their final 2 games to Utah and Texas. This game will be Senior Day for the Utes.
Featured image courtesy ABC4 Utah