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Can the Utes run the L.A. gauntlet?

Utah plays back-to-back games against UCLA and USC. How it fares the next two Saturdays could go a long way in defining the Utes’ season

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Utah coach Kyle Whittingham gestures during a video replay during game against Oregon State at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham gestures during a video replay during game against Oregon State at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. The 11th-ranked Utes play at No. 18 UCLA Saturday and will host No. 6 USC the following week.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

This article was first published in the Ute Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Wednesday night.

The next two weeks could define Utah’s season.

The No. 11 Utes play the two Los Angeles-based teams that are bolting the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024, starting Saturday against No. 18 UCLA at the Rose Bowl. The following week Utah hosts No. 6 USC.

How are the Utes handling these huge games coming up?

“You can’t get too high or too low. Coaches are telling us it’s just another game,” said running back Micah Bernard. “We’ve been working for this moment. Every week is a new moment to show why we’re the best. That’s exactly how we’re going to treat these next two weeks.” 

As the defending Pac-12 champs, Utah is the team with the target on its back. So far, the Utes are 2-0 in conference play, outscoring Arizona State and Oregon State by a combined score of 76-29.

How will Utah fare against the Bruins and Trojans in back-to-back weeks?

In case you missed it

Utah wide receiver Jaylen Dixon burst onto the scene in 2018 and 2019 before entering the transfer portal in 2020.

But a few months later, he had a change of heart and decided to return to the Utes in 2021. Coach Kyle Whittingham allowed Dixon to return and give him a second chance.

Saturday against Oregon State, Dixon scored a pair of touchdowns — and his teammates celebrated.

Numbers game

3: Interceptions recorded by cornerback Clark Phillips III against Oregon State.

1,069: Career receiving yards for wide receiver Jaylen Dixon.  

From the archives

Extra points

  • How Utah’s (and UCLA’s) odds to win the Pac-12 have shifted since the season started (Deseret News)
  • Kyle Whittingham reflects on ‘callous, cold-blooded’ coaching profession (Deseret News)
  • No. 11 Utah offense finds other weapons in Brant Kuithe’s absence (Deseret News)
  • What No. 12 Utah’s opportunistic win over Oregon State means amid the early Pac-12 race (Deseret News)
  • Clark Phillips III lives up to his name with III interceptions in win over Oregon State (Deseret News)

Fanalyst

Comments from Deseret News readers:

At first glance one is tempted to react that Utah’s defense had a bad day, after all they did give up a lot of yards. But then you notice that Oregon State scored only one touchdown and 16 total points, the Ute secondary had four interceptions, Clark Phillips III had three interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. That is a pretty good day for any ranked football team. Then one might complain about the offense until you note that the Beavs came in with the idea of stuffing the run, and Utah reacted by taking advantage of what OSU was giving them. The result was Rising having a productive day through the air and the ground ... oh yes, and how many TD passes? The Utes still need to work on the run game, and it would be nice if Tavion could find his game again. It was a good outing. Now, a trip to LA and a very good UCLA team ... it is not going to get any easier. The next three games are crucial and against what looks like three of the top teams in the PAC, all ranked, and all of them are really good ... can’t worry about Oregon, but the Ducks are still out there as well. Nothing will come easy now. Next team up ... UCLA!!! Go Utes!!!

— stathis

Whittingham is well worth that. I’d argue that someone ensuring a team that generates tens of millions of dollars per year is successful contributes more to society than a lot of people. If college football wasn’t as popular as it is, you could argue he doesn’t contribute much to society. Also, most of us notice the football success, but he’s positively influenced hundreds of young men who the majority of which will go on to lead more successful lives because of Whittingham and the other Utes coaches. He’s also had opportunities to leave for even more money and has turned those down to stay at Utah.

— LicoriceRope

Up next

Oct. 6 | 6:30 p.m. | Soccer | vs. Oregon | @Salt Lake City | Pac-12 Network

Oct. 7 | 7 p.m. | Volleyball | vs. Cal | @Salt Lake City | Pac-12 Bay Area

Oct. 8 | 1:30 p.m. | Football | vs. UCLA | @Pasadena, California | Fox

Oct. 9 | 1 p.m. | Soccer | vs. Oregon State | @Salt Lake City | Utah Live Stream

Oct. 9 | 4 p.m. | Volleyball | vs. Stanford | @Salt Lake City | ESPNU