There will be no bulletin board material for Kyle Whittingham and his program this week.

There’s nothing to take personally, no quote to get fired up about.

UCLA coach Chip Kelly has been downright complimentary of Utah.

“I’ve got a ton of respect for Cam Rising, I think he’s an amazing competitor and we’ve played against him before. He’s been one of the top quarterbacks not only in the league but in the country for a long time.” — UCLA coach Chip Kelly

The Bruins beat the Utes last season and return 75% of their production from the defense that outphysicaled the Utes in the 42-32 upset win.

While the undefeated No. 22 Bruins may be confident heading into Rice-Eccles Stadium to face the 3-0 No. 11 Utes, they’re not getting too far ahead of themselves.

“I don’t think overconfident comes up in any conversation when you’re playing Utah, so I don’t think that word exists when you’re playing this team,” Kelly said. “This is the defending conference champ, two-time defending conference champ, really talented football team. ... They’re as good a football team as there is in the country.”

The big storyline heading into Saturday’s showdown is Utah’s injuries.

By Whittingham’s estimation, the Utes are down about 16 contributors following the Weber State game: quarterback Cam Rising (yet to play this year); tight end Brant Kuithe (yet to play this year); offensive lineman Johnny Maea (yet to play this year); wide receivers Devaughn Vele, Mycah Pittman and Munir McClain; running back Micah Bernard (out for the season); defensive tackle Junior Tafuna; defensive tackle Simote Pepa (yet to play this year); defensive end Connor O’Toole (yet to play this year); cornerback JaTravis Broughton and kicker Cole Becker.

Add in quarterback Brandon Rose and tight end Dallen Bentley, and you begin to understand why Whittingham said he hasn’t seen anything like this in his 40 years of coaching.

After Tuesday’s practice Whittingham said “it’s looking optimistic for three or four, maybe five” of the injured players to return.

Utah’s depth will continued to be tested Saturday.

“We’re preparing for Utah, so they’re all really good players. So if one guy’s down, it’s not like there’s a huge dropoff,” Kelly said.

Is this the week that quarterback Cam Rising makes his season debut? Utah knows by now, with Rising having met with Los Angeles-based Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed his ACL surgery.

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But Whittingham prefers to keep the Bruins guessing and won’t announce if Rising is good to go.

How does that change UCLA’s preparation?

“They run a similar offense and it’s really preparing for Andy Ludwig and what he does and Andy does a great job with that offense. So there’s probably a little bit more quarterback-driven run when Nate (Johnson’s) in there, but that doesn’t mean Cam can’t. Cam’s beaten a lot of teams with his legs, too,” Kelly said.

Kelly has seen Rising before, and thinks highly of the veteran Utah quarterback.

“I’ve got a ton of respect for Cam Rising, I think he’s an amazing competitor and we’ve played against him before. He’s been one of the top quarterbacks not only in the league but in the country for a long time,” Kelly said.

The Bruins also are familiar with Johnson, who earned the backup job after leading the Utes to a win on the road at Baylor. UCLA offered the four-star quarterback from California.

“Nate’s maybe one of the fastest quarterbacks in the country, was a 100-meter guy here in the state of California. Really active, but he can throw the ball really well too, so he could beat you with his arms and his legs,” Kelly said. “They got a little bit more of a run package I think with him than they probably would’ve with Cam. You got to prepare for it all because they all played recently for them. So you got to really look at all three quarterbacks that have participated for them.”

UCLA freshman quarterback Dante Moore leads the Bruins into Salt Lake City, where he’ll face the first real test of his young career. He’s thrown for 615 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception with a completion percentage of 62.7% and has a passer rating of 205.4.

Cal transfer wide receiver J. Michael Sturdivant has nine catches for 219 yards for the Bruins, and the one-two running back punch of Carson Steele and TJ Harden has combined for 476 yards.

Utes on the air


No. 11 Utah (3-0)
vs. No. 22 UCLA (3-0)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT
Rice-Eccles Stadium
TV: Fox
Radio: ESPN 700/92.1 FM


Defensive lineman Laiatu Latu is the key to UCLA’s defense. He has four sacks, an interception and a forced fumble already this season.

The Bruins haven’t played a quality opponent yet — winning against Coastal Carolina, San Diego State and North Carolina Central — but the defense has been stout and hasn’t allowed more than 13 points in a game this season.

Kelly and the Bruins know it will be a tough challenge to win in Salt Lake City, where Utah hasn’t lost since 2020, but UCLA has a real shot at the upset Saturday, especially if Rising can’t go.

“Rice-Eccles is a difficult venue. They’ve got a great home-crowd advantage. ... I think the crowd in Utah is awesome,” Kelly said. They have great support for their football program and they’re a really good team and they’re really well coached. So I think it’s a combination of the crowd, the talent on the roster and the coaching staff.”

UCLA quarterback Dante Moore prepares to take a snap during a game against Coastal Carolina on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023, in Los Angeles. Moore and the 22nd-ranked Bruins will invade Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday to take on the No. 11 Utes. | Kyusung Gong, Associated Press