The expectations are high for the Utah football team going into the 2022 season.

The Utes are seen as a potential top 10 team heading into the year, and some experts are even calling for Utah to be a College Football Playoff candidate.

That comes with the territory for a Utah program that’s established itself as the team to beat in the Pac-12 and is coming off one of the Utes’ best seasons ever.

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While that leaves little wondering whether the Utes will flourish again under coach Kyle Whittingham in 2022, though there are some questions that can’t be answered until the season begins.

CBS Sports’ Shehan Jeyarajah addressed one of them when he asked what the biggest question is surrounding each Pac-12 program with spring camp upon us.

What is it for Utah?

How will the Utes handle being the hunted?

For the first time since entering the Pac-12, the Utes are defending conference champions. That will come with its own set of expectations.

“Utah coach Kyle Whittingham finally got his elusive first Pac-12 championship in 2021, as the Utes shocked Oregon twice to earn their first-ever trip to the Rose Bowl. With several key starters back from the championship team, Utah is a popular pick to compete for a playoff spot,” Jayarajah wrote.

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It’s more than just being the defending champions, though. Utah returns a good amount of talent, even with stars like Devin Lloyd and Britain Covey, among others, leaving to pursue a pro career.

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On offense, the Utes return quarterback Cam Rising, running back Tavion Thomas and tight ends Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid, while defensively Utah has cornerback Clark Phillips III, safety Cole Bishop and defensive linemen Devin Kaufusi and Van Fillinger back.

They’ll help Utah this season as it enters 2022 with the Pac-12 target on its back.

“Coming off the program’s first top-15 finish since joining the Pac-12, Utah now faces a new challenge of being the hunted instead of being the hunter,” Jayarajah wrote. 

“Whittingham did lead Utah to three straight 10-win seasons and an undefeated Sugar Bowl champion season in the Mountain West, but coaching duels with (USC coach Lincoln) Riley, (Arizona State coach Herm) Edwards and (UCLA coach Chip) Kelly will provide a different challenge. Instilling a confident mindset heading into 2022 is critical. The Utes have no time to waste with Florida on the schedule in Week 1.”

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