Fox college football analyst Joel Klatt is high on the Utes in 2024.

“Utah. That’s right. They’re back. Death, taxes and Utah football,” Klatt said on “The Joel Klatt Show” this week.

Klatt released his way-too-early top 10 rankings for the 2024 season, slotting Utah at No. 8. He ranked Georgia No. 1, Ohio State No. 2, Oregon No. 3, Texas No. 4, Alabama No. 5, Ole Miss No. 6, Michigan No. 7, Notre Dame No. 9 and Penn State No. 10.

“Cam Rising is going to be in his seventh season in college football, won the Pac-12 in each of his last two healthy years. You think this is not going to be a good team? This team is going to be excellent.” — Fox Sports analyst Joel Klatt

In response to those who might raise their eyebrows at Utah being ranked in the top 10 after going 8-5 last season, the return of Cam Rising and a host of starters, including tight end Brant Kuithe, means that the offense should be a lot more productive than last year’s Bryson Barnes-led effort.

“Look up Utah this year. They got just crushed by injury. If you go back to the years that they didn’t get crushed, even though they dealt with injuries, when they didn’t get crushed by injuries, double-digit wins each of their last three full seasons,” Klatt said.

Rising, who has thrown for 5,572 yards and 46 touchdowns over his Utes career, returns for his seventh season overall after missing the entire 2023 campaign rehabbing from knee surgery.

“They get Cam Rising back, they get Kuithe back. The defense, you know is going to be good. That’s a plug and play defense. It’s always tough. They’re always good at the line of scrimmage. Cam Rising is going to be in his seventh season in college football, won the Pac-12 in each of his last two healthy years. You think this is not going to be a good team? This team is going to be excellent.”

Klatt also sees Utah’s Big 12 schedule as “more manageable” than last year in the Pac-12, when the Utes faced Oregon State, USC, Oregon, Washington and Arizona.

“They don’t have to go through the gauntlet that was the Pac-12 a year ago. They’re now moving into the Big 12. They should be the preseason favorite,” Klatt said.

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The winner of the Big 12 will earn a top four seed and a first-round bye in the College Football Playoff, but Utah will face stiff competition in Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Kansas and potentially Arizona, if quarterback Noah Fifita and wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan stick around in Tucson after coach Jedd Fisch’s departure to Washington.

“Remember, they’ve got a legit path to get one of those top four seeds because the top four seeds go to a team that wins their conference. So the Big 12 champ is likely going to be a top four seed and a bye and be into that quarterfinal round in the new playoff. Good chance that’s Utah, folks,” Klatt said.

Utah has done a good job in the transfer portal this offseason, meeting virtually all of its needs aside from backup quarterback.

“They just added (wide receiver) Dorian Singer. I know he had a down year at USC, but he was terrific at Arizona the year before. I look at this as easily one of the best teams in the country, as easily a top four team in next year’s playoff. That’s why I think eight might be too low,” Klatt said.

The Utes’ track record of development is another reason Klatt has Utah as the Big 12 preseason favorite.

“They develop as good as anybody. Maybe the best development program right now in college football is Michigan. You’d have to say that in the conversation for the second best development program in the country is Utah,” Klatt said.

Utah plays Arizona, BYU, TCU and Iowa State at home in Big 12 play in 2024, traveling to Arizona State, Colorado, Houston, Oklahoma State and UCF. Dates for the 2024 conference slate will be released in “a week or two,” according to Utah athletic director Mark Harlan.

Utah Utes quarterback Cam Rising smiles.
Utah Utes quarterback Cam Rising smiles during a game against the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. Rising missed the entire 2023 season due to injury but will be returning to the Utes in 2024. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News