I think when you play a nine-game conference schedule, that’s the way to do it. – Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, on playing three non-conference games to start the season
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham doesn’t mind opening the season with three consecutive non-conference games. He actually prefers it.
Once Saturday’s game at Michigan is complete, the Utes play Pac-12 contests the rest of the way. They opened the season against Idaho State and Fresno State.
“I think when you play a nine-game conference schedule, that’s the way to do it,” said Whittingham, who noted that there was some merit to breaking things up in the middle of conference play when the Utes played an eight-game league schedule as they did in the Mountain West. It gave the team an opportunity to regroup.
Utah does, however, have a second bye this season — following Pac-12 games against Washington State and UCLA and before taking on Oregon State.
As for their first bye week, Whittingham said it gave the Utes a head start on their trip to the Big House.
“We feel like we’ve made a lot of progress,” he explained after Wednesday’s practice in Salt Lake City. “The plan has obviously been in for a couple of days now, and we’re just continuing to try to detail it out and eliminate mistakes.”
WAY TOO EARLY: Despite the fact that the Big Ten is 1-10, thus far, against Power 5 conferences and Notre Dame, Whittingham noted that there’s only been three weeks of play.
“I think it’s too early to start labeling a conference at this point in the season,” he said. “You’ve got to give it three or four more weeks.”
GOLD-MEDAL GUY: Team manager Drew Johnson was a special guest on Whittingham’s radio show this week. Johnson recently earned his 31st gold medal in the Special Olympics, much to the delight of everyone in the program. Johnson’s top sports are basketball and bowling.
“He’s a gold-medal machine in those Special Olympics. He’s very proud of that and our team is very proud of what he has accomplished,” Whittingham said. “The players love him. He’s a part of us. He’s part of the football family. He’s been around here for a lot of years now and does a great job for us.”
NO INJURY UPDATES: Michigan coach Brady Hoke told reporters Wednesday that he wasn’t going to talk about injuries. As such, the status of Wolverines star receiver Devin Funchess for Saturday’s game against Utah is uncertain. MLive.com reported that Funchess, who did not play against Miami (Ohio) because of a leg injury, was on the sidelines without a protective boot or brace. He did, however, walk with a noticeable limp. Updates on starters Jarrod Wilson (safety), Desmond Morgan (linebacker), Raymon Taylor (cornerback) and Khalid Hill (tight end), who did not play or saw limited action last week, were not provided as well.
EXTRA POINTS: According to research by nationalchamps.net, Utah will be wearing white helmets for the first time since the Utes did so from 1968-73. … The Wolverines announced a home-and-home series with Texas earlier this week. They’ll meet the Longhorns in 2024 (Ann Arbor) and 2027 (Austin). … Utah quarterback Travis Wilson is 9-9 as the Utes’ starter.