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SALT LAKE CITY — If you liked Utah's 2021 football schedule, in which the Utes earned their first Pac-12 championsip, it's much of the same for 2022 — with some subtle changes.
The biggest change, however, is a season-opening game against Florida, a team that will be breaking in new head coach Billy Napier when the Utes come to Gainesville on Sept. 3 as part of a home-and-home series with the Gators.
Florida will return the favor a year later at Rice-Eccles Stadium in place of the near-annual in-state game scheduled against BYU. The matchup in Gainesville will be only the second time in program history Utah has played Florida — the first was a 38-29 loss on Nov. 19, 1977.
Utah replaces Weber State with fellow-FCS program Southern Utah on Sept. 10, and the conclusion of a home-and-home series against San Diego State at Rice-Eccles Stadium to closeout nonconference play on Saturday, Sept. 17.
But the path to another Pac-12 title won't come easy as Utah will face three of the top South division opponents in the first four games of the conference schedule, with an upstart Oregon State team as the fourth. Utah opens up conference play on the road in Tempe, Arizona, in a game against Arizona State on Sept. 24.
Utah will have its home conference opener on Oct. 1 against a Beavers team that gave the Utes its only loss in conference play in the 2021 season.
In conference play, Utah will have only four home games, but the program gets the benefit of playing USC at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Lincoln Riley's first season coaching the Trojans. The other home games include the Oregon State game and games against Arizona on Nov. 5 and Stanford on Nov. 12.
Utah will return to the Rose Bowl Stadium to take on UCLA on Oct. 8 before a game against USC at home a week later. The two Los Angeles-based schools will be the final two games before Utah's bye week in Week 8. The conference slate resumes on Oct. 29 with a road trip to Pullman, Washington to take on Washington State.
Of the four new head coaches recently hired in the Pac-12, Utah is scheduled to play three in 2022, including Oregon's Dan Lanning, USC's Riley and Washington State's Jake Dickert.
On Wednesday, as part of the NCAA's early signing day period, Utah signed 20 players of its 2022 recruiting class, many of whom could fill key depth positions on the roster for next year's team, especially as several players leave Utah early to declare for the NFL draft — or find a new home through the transfer portal.
Wide receiver Britain Covey, tight end Cole Fotheringham and running back TJ Pledger have already declared their intent to pursue an NFL career. Tight end Brant Kuithe, who led the team in receiving yards in 2021, is expected to follow suit but said his decision will be announced "soon." No other player has made any indications as to their future plans.