LAS VEGAS — The most pressing questions for University of Utah quarterback Cam Rising on Friday at Pac-12 football media day were naturally going to be about his surgically repaired knee.

“I wish I could play them once, that’s all. I really, that is a team that I want to play. Wish we were playing them this year. Absolutely.” — Utah quarterback Cam Rising on not facing BYU in 2023

No surprise there.

The 24-year-old Californian got plenty of those, and answered them optimistically, saying his knee is “doing great” and that everything is “going the way they are supposed to be” going.”

Rising said he fully expects to be starting in Utah’s opener on Aug. 31 against the SEC’s Florida Gators.

“Just going out there and playing (in preseason camp) is going to give me confidence in it,” Rising said of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) he tore against Penn State in the Rose Bowl. “I think going against the Utah defense is going to be a big tell for seeing how I am feeling. I will get ready for that and I am excited to go out there and go against them.”

Head coach Kyle Whittingham was less optimistic, saying from the podium at a nightclub room at the Resorts World in Las Vegas that “Cam is going to come right down to the wire” in terms of being ready for the opener.

“Will he be ready for the opener?” Whittingham asked rhetorically. “We will have to find out.”

Later, in a nontelevised group interview with print reporters, Whittingham said it won’t be up to him or Rising.

“If they clear him, then I have all the confidence in the world in Cam. But that’s not our call. That’s between Cam and the medical staff to determine when he is ready.”

So there’s that.

But Rising’s answers to a couple other questions proved to be much more interesting, and one even added some spice to the Utah-BYU rivalry, which won’t be played in 2023 (barring a matchup in a bowl game, as in 2015) for the second-straight year.

Rising was a Ute the last time the rivals played — BYU’s 26-17 win in Provo on Sept. 11, 2021 — but had yet to ascend to the starting position and watched the Cougars make life difficult for starter Charlie Brewer.

Asked by a Las Vegas television reporter whether he is “disappointed” that the Utes are not playing BYU this year, Rising emphatically nodded his head.

“I wish I could play them once, that’s all,” he said. “I really, that is a team that I want to play. Wish we were playing them this year. Absolutely.”

Sitting beside Rising at an interview table, Utah defensive back Cole Bishop, a junior from Georgia who grew up in Boston, also chimed in on the lack of a rivalry game in 2023.

“I agree (with Rising),” Bishop said. “I pulled my hamstring like two days before the game. … That sucked, just sitting on the sideline, watching that. I believe we play them next year, so we will see.”

BYU is scheduled to play at Utah on Sept. 7, 2024 in a nonconference affair.

The same reporter had asked Whittingham about the lack of a BYU-Utah game this year and the 19-year coach who played at BYU said the rivalry doesn’t have the “same feel” that it used to have when both schools were members of the WAC and Mountain West conferences.

“Certainly still one of the better rivalries in the country,” Whittingham said.

Also during the televised portion of media day, Whittingham said the Pac-12 this year “is the conference of quarterbacks, without a doubt.” He said it is “crazy to me” that Rising, “who led us to the last two Pac-12 championships, is not even honorable mention” on the preseason list of accolades.

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USC’s Caleb Williams made the first team, while Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. was the second team and Oregon’s Bo Nix was honorable mention.

Asked for his reaction to not making the top three, Rising said: “Good. It is what it is.”

Asked where he sees himself among Pac-12 QBs, he replied: “Let’s find out during the season.”

Rising used that same “it is what it is” refrain when asked about the Utes being picked third behind USC and Washington, and added, “I don’t care about it.”

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Whittingham had said he could not care less about the preseason predictions, and Bishop also echoed his coach and quarterback’s statements.

“It doesn’t really matter,” Bishop said. “We could be picked first, or last. It doesn’t change anything for the season. Like, we could go out and lose all of our games, and it wouldn’t matter. Or we could win them all. The preseason stuff doesn’t make a difference, in my opinion.”

 As for Rising getting snubbed for preseason honors, Bishop did have a strong opinion on that.

“I see him on top (among other Pac-12 QBs),” Bishop said. “I think the disrespect in the aspect of all the polls and everything is crazy. But I think Cam is going to come out this year and have a great year and show that he’s the top guy.”

Utah Utes QB Cameron Rising (7) is helped off the field after getting injured on a run as Utah and Penn State play in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on Monday, Jan. 2, 2023. Penn State won 35-21.
Utah QB Cam Rising (7) is helped off the field after getting injured against Penn State in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on Monday, Jan. 2, 2023. The Utah senior is optimistic he’ll be good to go when the Utes open the 2023 season at home against Florida on Aug. 31. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
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