SALT LAKE CITY — With the college football season just around the corner, each program that calls Utah home is preparing for their first full season since a disrupted 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With a full slate ahead for each team, local schools BYU, Utah, Utah State — and even Weber State — will encounter formidable opponents. The following is a list of the top 10 games involving in-state programs that fans will want to pay special attention to this season.
These games could heavily impact where these teams finish at the end of the season; and in some cases, whether or not they will have a shot at winning their conference.
10. Weber State at Utah
More than likely this will end up as a blowout for the Utes. But this matchup will also be the first time Utah fans get a look at their new offense, specifically Charlie Brewer, who was named the starter at quarterback over Cameron Rising.
This will also provide a chance for Utah to work out the kinks against a good Weber State program, and for the Wildcats to measure their program against the best that the state of Utah has to offer. It will also give Wildcat fans the opportunity to watch freshman quarterback Barron Bronson, who put on an impressive display during their spring season, against one of the top defenses in the country.
9. BYU at Utah State
Of the last six meetings between these two programs, the teams have split the victories with three apiece. As they face each other for the first time in over two years, it will be interesting to see who will come out on top. With both programs experiencing notable roster turnovers and each submitting a stellar quarterback to the NFL recently, this game could go either way as the two battle for the Old Wagon Wheel.
8. Boise State at Utah State
While Utah State might not be a potential dark horse competitor for the Mountain West Championship, like they were two seasons ago behind Jordan Love, they're still a well-coached team and a tough matchup, regardless of who their opponents is for the week.
Boise State also isn't at the level it was in 2019; and with newly named quarterback Hank Bachmeier experiencing his first full season in the Mountain West, this game will be no easy victory as the Aggies look to upset the king of the conference.
7. Boise State at BYU
This matchup has become somewhat of a classic rivalry over the last decade since the two teams met every year since the 2012 season. While Boise State currently leads the matchup 7-4, BYU has won the last two meetings, including a lopsided 51-17 win last season.
But with nearly half of the 11 matchups being decided by a single possession, and BYU no longer possessing many of the offensive weapons from last year, this game could turn out to be another tightly-contested game decided on the very final drive.
6. Virginia at BYU
This will be a must-watch game for BYU fans as former head coach Bronco Mendenhall faces his former program for the first time since taking over at Virginia in 2016. While it will be a nice homecoming, which will more than likely include some sort of tribute video, this is a game both coaches will have circled.
Mendenhall will look to assert ACC dominance while Sitake will try to demonstrate what he's benn able to do with the program since Mendenhall's departure. You can expect a passionate battle between two defensive-minded programs.
5. Oregon at Utah
Not only will this be a pricey entrance fee as the Utes rock their newly revealed military appreciation uniforms, but it's a regular-season matchup that could end up being a preview of the Pac-12 Championship game. Both teams are projected to finish near the top of their respective divisions and each squad will look to better the other in the first time the teams have played since the 2019 Pac-12 Championship.
You can expect Rice-Eccles Stadium to be rocking as the Utes look to avenge their 2019 championship loss and to give the Ducks a taste of what they can potentially expect if the two meet up again to compete for the conference title.
4. BYU at USC
The last time these two teams met in 2019, the Cougars upset the Trojans in dramatic fashion: BYU intercepted the football during USC's overtime drive to win 30-27. Two years removed from their last meeting, USC is expected to compete for a Pac-12 Championship and a potential spot in the College Football Playoff.
The Cougars will hope to upset the Trojans yet again and potentially close the door on USC's prospects. But without star quarterback Zach Wilson under center, BYU will have its work cut out for them.
3. Arizona State at Utah
USC and Utah were both projected ahead of Arizona State to win the Pac-12 South Division, but the Sun Devils could very well find themselves in the mix and provide a formidable test for the Utes. This game, however, is played in Salt Lake City where the Utes have had more success than in the desert.
The last time Sun Devils quarterback Jayden Daniels was in Salt Lake City, he went a dismal 4-of-18 passing for 25 yards and an interception. If the Utes defense can, yet again, suffocate Daniels, they'll have no problem dealing with the Sun Devils and keeping their Pac-12 Championship aspirations alive.
2. Utah at BYU
The rivalry has lost some of its intensity and appeal with Utah's domination over the past decade, but this game will always be one of the most intriguing in-state matchups of the season. The Utes are looking to extend their winning streak to 10 in a row; BYU is eager to see that streak end — a streak dating back to 2010.
Given the rosters, Utah should be able to beat the Cougars again; but don't sleep on BYU as they would love nothing more than to upset the Utes and knock them from their season projections early on — and to end the decade-long streak.
1. Utah at USC
This is undoubtedly the biggest game involving an in-state program. The Utes will not only look to beat the Trojans in the Coliseum for the first time since 1916, but the winner of this game will more than likely win the Pac-12 South.
The key to this game will be Utah's young secondary against USC's highly-skilled receivers and quarterback Kedon Slovis. If the Utes secondary can step up and give the offense an opportunity to compete, Utah could very well find itself back on the path to a Pac-12 Championship appearance — and a chance to potentially hoist its first-ever conference trophy.