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Where does Utah’s football schedule rank in terms of difficulty in the Pac-12?

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Utah Utes celebrate after scoring a touchdown against the USC Trojans during the Pac-12 Championship at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022.

Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

Utah football does not appear to have an easy road to success this season.

The Utes’ 2023 schedule, according to ESPN’s updated Football Power Index, is the most difficult of any Pac-12 program this year and the 30th hardest in the country.

With games against the Florida Gators (in Salt Lake City) and Baylor Bears (in Waco, Texas), plus a nine-game Pac-12 schedule, the Utes will face only one non-Power Five opponent in 2023 — Weber State, an FCS program.

Utah also travels to Oregon State, USC and Washington this season, though the Utes get to host Oregon and UCLA.

The 2023 slate is expected to be Utah’s hardest since 2018, when the Utes finished with the 13th hardest schedule in the country (Utah went 9-5 overall that season and lost to Washington in the Pac-12 championship game).

Here is where every Pac-12 program’s 2023 schedule ranks in terms of difficulty, according to ESPN:

  1. Utah Utes — No. 30.
  2. Colorado Buffaloes — No. 37.
  3. California Golden Bears – No. 40.
  4. Washington Huskies — No. 41.
  5. USC Trojans — No. 42.
  6. Oregon Ducks — No. 45.
  7. Stanford Cardinal — No. 47.
  8. Arizona State Sun Devils — No. 50.
  9. UCLA Bruins — No. 57.
  10. Arizona Wildcats — No. 60.
  11. Washington State Cougars — No. 63.
  12. Oregon State Beavers — No. 68.

With an index ranking of 15, Utah is projected to win eight or nine games this season, per ESPN, third behind only USC and Oregon in the Pac-12.

In back-to-back conference championship seasons in 2021 and 2022 the Utes exceeded the nine-win total, but their schedule was easier both years than what is projected in 2023.