Way-Too-Early Look At Utah Football 2021 Schedule

Jan 18, 2021, 4:28 PM

Utah Football celebrates at Rice Eccles Stadium...

Utah players begin warmups as they prepare to play Oregon State in a college football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It’s been nearly one month since Utah football concluded their 2020 season, which means it’s time to get a Way-Too-Early look at the 2021 schedule.

Utah football ended the 2020 season with a 3-2 record, but things look really good when you take a Way-Too-Early look at their 2021 schedule. The Utah football team unfortunately suffered a tragic loss on Christmas night after finishing their 2020 schedule with the passing of star running back Ty Jordan, leaving a huge void on and off the field. Utah Football will have a new quarterback when they take on the 2021 schedule as Jake Bentley transferred to South Alabama shortly after the season ended.

On defense, Utah football returns every starter except safety Nate Ritchie who will serve a two-year church mission as they look to win the South Division with this 2021 schedule. Offensively, the running back and quarterback spots will have new starters but everyone else is back.

Star tight end Brant Kuithe, offensive lineman Nick Ford and linebacker Devin Lloyd elected to return for the 2021 season, putting their NFL future on hold for at least one more season.

According to the Pac-12 schedule rotation, Utah will not play California or Washington in 2021. They will have six home games and six road games.

Here is a Way-Too-Early breakdown of Utah’s opponents in the 2021 season.

Way-Too-Early Look At Utah Football 2021 Non-Conference Schedule

Weber State Wildcats – Home – Thursday, Sept. 2

The Wildcats will be getting all warmed up for the 2021 season when they face the Utes on September 2 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Weber State and the Big Sky Conference are playing their 2020 season in the spring of 2021. They will play six games from the end of February to the beginning of April. Jay Hill’s program is expected to contend for an FCS National Championship this year and basically bring everyone back.

The team will have a quarterback competition in camp but have a stable of running backs that can be effective for their offense. Josh Davis leads the charge, along with Kevin Smith Jr., Kris Jackson and Dontae McMillan. Clay Moss is one of the best fullbacks in the country according to Mel Kiper Jr. Rashid Shaheed and Ty MacPherson are two explosive weapons on the outside. On the offensive line, Ty Whitworth is a multiple All-Big Sky performer. Ben Bos and Noah Atagi are players to watch on the offensive front as well.

Defensively, Jared Schiess could be back for the fall. If not, George Tarlas, Okiki Olorunfunmi and Kalisi Moli will anchor the defensive line for the Wildcats. Noah Vaea and Conner Mortensen are stud linebackers and KSL Sports was told that Sherwin Lavaka will be a special player. In the secondary, Marque Collins and Eddie Heckard are players to watch for at cornerback.

Since 2000, Utah is 2-0 against the Wildcats. The last time these two teams met was in 2018 with the Utes picking up a 41-10 win.

BYU Cougars – Away – Saturday, Sept. 11

The Cougars had their best season in decades after going 11-1, including a dominating win over UCF in the Boca Raton Bowl. Quarterback Zach Wilson was a Heisman finalist and led the Cougars to their best end of season ranking since 1996 at No. 11 in the final AP poll of the 2020 season.

As expected, Wilson declared for the 2021 NFL Draft. As did star offensive tackle Brady Christensen, wide receiver Dax Milne and defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga.

That leaves new BYU offensive coordinator and former Utah OC Aaron Roderick with a QB competition on his hands entering the 2021 season. He will also need to find some key contributors on the offensive line and figure out his next playmakers on the outside.

The Utes have won 9 straight over their rivals, including a 30-12 win in Provo in 2019. These two teams were scheduled to play at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2020 but COVID-19 prevented Utah from playing any non-conference games.

All-time, Utah is 59-31-4 against the Cougars and a perfect 8-0 since joining the Pac-12 and BYU becoming an FBS independent.

Will the Utes win their 10th straight over the Cougars when they travel to Provo on Saturday, September 11?

San Diego State Aztecs – Away – Saturday, Sept. 18

The Aztecs will host the Utes in the first game of the home-and-home series on Saturday, September 18. In 2020, San Diego State went 4-4 with wins over UNLV, Utah State, Hawai’i and Colorado State. They lost to San Jose State, Nevada, Colorado and BYU.

Brady Hoke is back as SDSU’s head coach for the second time after running the program from 2009-10. The 2020 season was his first season of his second stint at the helm for the Aztecs.

Known for their stifling defense, San Diego State as created an identity similar to Utah’s. Run the ball on offense and stop the run on defense. This will be a very physical matchup.

The last time these two teams squared off was when they were Mountain West Conference foes in 2010. Before leaving the MWC for the Pac-12, Utah won five straight games over the Aztecs. All-time, Utah leads the series 17-12-1.

Way-Too-Early Look At Utah Football 2021 Conference Schedule

Arizona Wildcats – Away

The Wildcats had one of their worst seasons in program history, going 0-5 in 2020. Kevin Sumlin was fired and Arizona hired New England Patriots quarterback coach Jedd Fisch to take over the program in Tucson.

A lot of fallout came from that move and the trajectory that the program was on. Quarterback Grant Gunnell transferred to Memphis, wide receivers Drew Dixon and Stanley Berryhill both entered the portal with Berryhill going to Ball State.

They did pick up some great pieces in the transfer portal with running back Drake Anderson and safety Gunner Maldonado, both from Northwestern. Baylor offensive lineman Davis DiVall, Colorado defensive end Jason Harris and Notre Dame cornerback Isaiah Rutherford will join the Arizona program.

Utah was scheduled to open the 2020 season against Arizona at Rice-Eccles Stadium but the game was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns with the Utes’ program. They have won four straight against the Wildcats and are 5-4 since joining the conference. The winning streak has given the Utes the lead in the all-time series, 22-19-2.

Arizona State Sun Devils – Home

The Sun Devils were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020 season. They were able to play four games and went 2-2. ASU started the season with a loss to USC by one point before their next three games against California, Colorado and Utah were canceled. Then they lost to UCLA before ending the season with back-to-back wins over Arizona and Oregon State.

Herm Edwards has done a great job of rebuilding the program in Tempe. Quarterback Jayden Daniels will be back for his third season. The Sun Devils have a couple of really good running backs returning in Rachaad White and Chip Trayanum.

In the transfer portal, ASU received commitments from Oklahoma tight end Jalin Conyers, North Carolina offensive lineman Triston Miller and LSU defensive end Travez Moore.

Arizona State is one of the programs in the Pac-12 that the Utes have struggled with as they are just 3-6 vs. the Sun Devils. All-time, ASU leads the series 22-9. Although, the Utes have won three of the last five meetings, including a 21-3 win in 2019 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Colorado Buffaloes – Home

The Buffaloes in their first season under Karl Dorrell was impressive as he was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year. They started the 2020 campaign 4-0 with wins over UCLA, Stanford, San Diego State and Arizona. Their streak was broken when they lost to the Utes in Boulder and they lost by 32 point to Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Sam Noyer was impressive at quarterback but the breakout performer was running back Jarek Broussard, who rushed for 813 and 3 touchdowns. He was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year.

The Buffs picked up a quarterback in the transfer portal in former Tennessee signal caller J.T. Shrout. One player on the defensive side that will be interesting if he returns or goes to the NFL is linebacker Nate Landman.

Offensive lineman William Sherman and defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson has declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Utes have dominated the series since joining the Pac-12. They have won four straight and eight of the last nine games. That has helped Utah take the all-time series lead over the Buffaloes, 32-30-3.

Oregon Ducks – Home

It was a strange season for Oregon in 2020. They were the preseason favorites to win the conference and started strong with three wins over Stanford, Washington State and UCLA. Then they lost by three to rival Oregon State and by four points to California. At 3-2, it was unlikely that the Ducks would win the North Division especially after their regular season finale against Washington was canceled.

The Huskies won the North Division but couldn’t play in the Pac-12 Championship game because they didn’t have enough players to field a team due to COVID-19 protocols. That gave the Ducks the nod to play USC for the conference crown. Oregon beat USC 31-24 to win their second straight conference title. When they played Iowa State in the Fiesta Bowl, the Ducks couldn’t get the job done, falling to the Cyclones 34-17.

Oregon was having issues at quarterback as they would rotate between Tyler Shough, who was expected to succeed Justin Herbert but Boston College transfer Anthony Brown started seeing playing time. C.J. Verdell was injured for a good chunk of the season and the offensive line was completely new.

On defense, Brady Breeze and Thomas Graham Jr. opted out of the 2020 season. They are both off to the 2021 NFL Draft. Safety Jevon Holland also entered the draft after playing in the 2020 season.

Star offensive lineman Penei Sewell didn’t play in 2020 as he is getting ready for the 2021 NFL Draft. The former Desert Hills High School star is projected to be taken in the top 5 of the draft.

The Ducks lost defensive coordinator Andy Avalos, who was named the head coach of Boise State. But the defense is stacked with young talent in Eugene. Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe are the future at linebacker for Oregon and they continue to recruit the best talent.

Oregon State Beavers – Away

The Beavers had an up and down 2020 season. It started with two disappointing losses to Washington State and Washington. Then they beat California by four points and knocked off the then-undefeated Oregon Ducks. After starting with a 2-2 record, they came to Salt Lake City and lost to the Utes before losing the last two games of the year to Stanford and Arizona State.

Running back Jermar Jefferson was a bright spot for the Beavers as one of the nation’s top rushers with 871 yards and 7 touchdowns. He is off to the NFL, declaring for the draft after the season.

Tristan Gebbia looks to be the quarterback of the future for the Beavers after throwing for nearly 1,000 yards. Defensively, Hamilcar Rashed declared for the NFL Draft.

They picked up three players in the transfer portal, including South Carolina all-purpose back Deshaun Fenwick, Georgia wide receiver Makiya Tongue and Kansas cornerback Elijah Jones.

Utah is 6-2 against Oregon State since joining the Pac-12 and winners of the last five games. The all-time series is tied 11-11-1.

Stanford Cardinal – Away

The Cardinal finished the 2020 season strong despite the many challenges they faced. They lost their first two games to Oregon and Colorado before rattling off four straight wins. Stanford beat California, Washington, Oregon State and UCLA. The last four games of their season was spent on the road and away from campus due to county COVID-19 restrictions.

They will have a quarterback competition in training camp but their running backs are returning with Austin Jones, Nathaniel Peat and E.J. Smith having good seasons.

The list is probably bigger than this but 11 players have declared for the NFL Draft. Cornerback Paulson Adebo and offensive lineman Walker Little both opted out of the 2020 season and entered their names into the draft. After the 2020 season concluded, quarterback Davis Mills, wide receivers Simi Fehoko and Connor Wedington, tight end Scooter Harrington, offensive linemen Drew Dalman and Foster Sarell, defensive end Thomas Schaffer, linebacker Curtis Robinson and safety Malik Antoine declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Utah and Stanford have only played each other four times since the Utes joined the conference. The Utes are 3-1 in those games. Utah leads the all-time series 5-3.

UCLA Bruins – Home

Another up and down season for the UCLA Bruins under head coach Chip Kelly. After losing to Colorado, they beat California. Then they lost by three points to Oregon before beating Arizona and Arizona State. They ended the 2020 season with losses to USC and Stanford.

Good news is the Bruins will get quarterback Dorian Thompson Robinson back. They will also get cornerback Obi Eboh back for 2021, along with running back Brittain Brown, defensive backs Qwuantrezz Knight and Quentin Lake

Bad news is that star running back Demetric Felton and defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa will not be back as they declared for the NFL Draft.

In the transfer portal, they picked up Washington QB Ethan Garbers, Texas A&M WR Kam Brown and Notre Dame safety Jordan Genmark Heath.

Utah and UCLA couldn’t play each other this season due to COVID-19 issues with the Utes’ program. They are 6-3 against the Bruins as Pac-12 foes, including winners of the last four games. UCLA leads the all-time series 11-7.

USC Trojans – Away

The Trojans were picked to win the Pac-12 South Division in 2020 and they did just that. They started with a 5-0 record with wins over Arizona State, Arizona, Utah, Washington State and UCLA before falling to Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game.

Quarterback Kedon Slovis will be back for likely his last season at USC.

On the recruiting trail, USC signed the No. 2 class in the conference and No. 8 in the nation. They signed No. 1 overall prospect defensive end Korey Foreman, along with a pair of four-star quarterbacks, including Corner Canyon star Jaxson Dart.

In the transfer portal, USC picked up Alabama defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher.

The Trojans lost a lot of talent. Defensive tackle Jay Tufele opted out of the 2020 season and entered the 2021 NFL Draft. Cornerback Olaijah Griffin, safety Talanoa Hufanga, wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns, offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker and defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu all entered the NFL Draft.

On top of that, running back Markese Stepp, defensive end Connor Murphy, linebackers Palaie Gaoteote IV and Abdul-Malik McClain entered the transfer portal.

Utah has lost two straight to USC and are 3-7 vs. the Trojans since joining the Pac-12. USC leads the all-time series 11-4.

Washington State Cougars – Home

It was a tough 2020 season for Nick Rolovich and the Cougars. They played four games and won just one against Oregon State. They lost to Oregon, USC, California and Utah.

Quarterback Jayden de Laura had a solid first season as the starter. Max Borghi played one game but will be a stud in 2021.

Wide receivers Rodrick Fisher, Kassidy Woods and Mike Pettway entered the transfer portal. Also, defensive tackle LaMonte McDougle, defensive end Will Rodgers III, cornerback Trey Davis and safety Skyler Thomas all entered the portal.

The Utes have won the last two meetings over the Cougars in red. Since joining the conference, they are 4-4. The all-time series is tied 9-9 after Utah’s two-game winning streak.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter:ย @TrevorASports.ย You can download and listen to the podcast,ย here.

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Way-Too-Early Look At Utah Football 2021 Schedule