KSL UNRIVALED

Pac-12 Schedule Released: How Many Wins For Utah Football In 2023?

Jan 19, 2023, 11:48 AM | Updated: 11:51 am

SALT LAKE CITY – The Pac-12 released its 2023 football schedule making it a great time for some off-the-cuff projections for the University of Utah.

The Utes will be looking for a three-peat as conference champions, plus this 2023 slate will be the final time that USC and UCLA will be on Utah’s schedule, baring being added as non-conference foes once the Trojans and Bruins are in the Big Ten.

These projections made by Unrivaled’s Alex Kirry and Scott Mitchell come with a glaring caveat and that is the health status of quarterback Cam Rising. Rising’s Rose Bowl injury to his knee is being kept under wraps and his status for next season is still unknown. These projections are under the assumption that the quarterback will be Rising.

If it is not Rising, Mitchell believes Utah could go to redshirt freshman Nate Johnson who appeared in four games this past year.

“I just have to tell you the whole season hinges on if Cam Rising is there,” Mitchell said. “Utah has not gone out and gotten anybody. No one is going to talk about anything next year unless Cam Rising comes back early. You are going to see a lot of Nate Johnson in spring football practice and they are going to wear that kid out. Giving this young guy a lot of reps. He is clearly very talented but needs reps.”

Another option could be Bryson Barnes who saw significant action this past year by starting for an injured Rising in the Washington State game and he came in for him in the second half of the Rose Bowl. Of those two, neither provide the experience of Rising who has been the leader of this Ute offense for multiple years. A case can be made that Rising can be responsible for multiple wins, so if he is out for any part of the season, expectations for Utah will need to be lowered quite a bit.

 

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Non-Conference Games For Utah In 2023

The first game of the year is a revenge game against Florida, who have to take a rare trek West. Florida will also have a new quarterback because Anthony Richardson declared for the NFL Draft.

The second game takes the Utes to Waco, Texas, to face the Baylor Bears. Neither will be easy but all signs point to the opener being on a Thursday night, so the Utes will have an extra few days to get ready for the Baylor matchup.

These two Power 5 games against Baylor and Florida can determine a lot for the Utes and if they are without Rising then those two games become much more difficult to win, but both Kirry and Mitchell project Utah to go 3-0 in non-conference play with the other win coming against Weber State.

Stinker Game?

Utah has had a few head-scratching losses over the years but they are usually road games. The road loss at Oregon State in 2021 is one of those over the past few seasons, and the Arizona schools have almost always been a hurdle when Utah plays them. The one team that might be considered a stinker game is going to Arizona on the second to last weekend of the season. The Utes will have played at Washington the week before so this will be a back-to-back road matchup which is never easy.

The Wildcats showed a lot of improvement under Jedd Fisch, plus the Wildcats are returning quarterback Jayden de Laura and other offensive weapons.

One game that has the hosts split on a Utes win is the road game against Arizona but both say that this game is going to be an interesting one.

“Typically they have not just had losses to good teams, but kind of a stinker in there. If they do have an alternate stinker in there, who is it?” Kirry asked. “I say it’s at Arizona. That’s a stinker loss, possibly. That is a question mark. That is not a gimme of a game.”

Oregon State vs. Utah Is A Question Mark

One of the biggest conference games comes early in the year against the Oregon State Beavers. That Jonathan Smith-led squad has been rising over the past few seasons and it has been said that they are just a quarterback away from being contenders for the Pac-12 title.

This past year the Beavers went 10-3 and finished ranked 17th in both polls. They also just might have their quarterback as D.J. Uiagalelei joined the Oregon State program from Clemson.

Mitchell wants everyone to have their eyes on this Beavers team which could be a dark horse team to win the Pac-12. This is the road conference opener for the Utes and it will be a challenging one.

“First road game of the year and the [Oretgon State] stadium, I believe, will be fully renovated that will be exciting,” Mitchell said. “This will be the home opener for conference play [for the Beavers]. This is still a question do they have a quarterback? Do they have a guy that’s going to be playing at a high-level playing against Utah, because Utah will be really good defensively next year. They play a cupcake non-conference schedule playing San Jose State, UC Davis, and San Diego State. This could be a good time to get Oregon State who will still be breaking in a new quarterback and a new system. They will be good and tough but I don’t think it is the toughest road conference game.”

While this is not the toughest road game for the Utes, the most challenging ones will come when they go to USC and Washington later in the year. Those two games are both projected to be losses by Kirry and Mitchell. Protecting Rice-Eccles Stadium is what both see the Utes doing very well this year with their seven home games. Mitchell has Utah going 7-0 with Kirry handing the Utes one loss to the Oregon Ducks to finish at 6-1 at home.

Overall, Mitchell is more optimistic about this Utah team and projected them going 10-2. Kirry pegged them at 8-4.

The two differ on the conference games and if Mitchell is correct that the Utes lose just two conference games next year, that should be good enough for them to make it back to another Pac-12 championship game. There has never been an undefeated team in Pac-12 play since the conference went to nine games, so two blemishes will keep them in the running for their third consecutive Pac-12 title.

If Utah is to win another title, they would be the first team to win three in a row since Oregon achieved that feat from 2009-11.

Tune into Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 3-6 p.m. on 1280 AM and 97.5 FM, or subscribe to the podcast. Also, download the all-new KSL Sports app on iOS or Android.

 

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