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Four of the most intriguing games on Utah’s schedule

In addition to the Utes’ Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State and their November matchup with BYU, here are two more games that stand out

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Oklahoma State quarterback Alan Bowman passes during game against BYU on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Stillwater, Okla.

Oklahoma State quarterback Alan Bowman passes during game against BYU on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Stillwater, Okla. Both the Cowboys and the Cougars are on the Utes’ 2024 schedule.

Mitch Alcala, Associated Press

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Utah’s first-ever Big 12 football schedule arrived Tuesday morning, and some games popped off the screen right away.

The Utes officially start their nine-game Big 12 slate at Oklahoma State on Sept. 21. (A Sept. 7 game against Baylor previously scheduled when the Utes were in the Pac-12 will count as a nonconference contest.)

Here’s a look at four of the most intriguing games on Utah’s 2024 schedule.

Sept. 21: at Oklahoma State

The Utes’ first Big 12 game was always going to be intriguing, and the opponent only adds to it.

Utah travels to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to take on Oklahoma State at Boone Pickens Stadium in what will be the marquee Big 12 game of the week.

The Cowboys floundered early last season, losing to South Alabama at home, but regrouped and went 7-2 in the Big 12, including a 27-24 win over Oklahoma and a 40-34 2OT win over BYU in the regular-season finale that sent the Cowboys to the Big 12 championship.

Though the Cowboys were trounced, 49-21, by College Football Playoff participant Texas in the Big 12 championship game, it was still an overall successful season for Mike Gundy’s squad, which capped off the year with a win over Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl.

Oklahoma State is one of the favorites to win the Big 12 next season with running back Ollie Gordon II — who won the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back — and quarterback Alan Bowman, who threw for 3,460 yards, 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2023.

It will likely be a top-25 matchup, and one that could set the tone for the Utes’ season.

Sept. 28: vs. Arizona

It’s hard to know how good this Arizona team is going to be in 2024.

Last season, the Wildcats made a big leap, going from 5-7 in 2022 to 10-3, capped with an Alamo Bowl victory over Oklahoma. Jedd Fisch did a fantastic job, and after a 3-3 start to the season, the Wildcats won their last seven games, including a 42-18 blowout of Utah. The Utes are certainly looking for revenge in their first home game in Big 12 play.

Nick Saban’s retirement set off a domino effect, as Kalen DeBoer was hired from Washington to replace Saban at Alabama, and then Fisch was hired by Washington. In a twist, star quarterback Noah Fifita and wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan decided to stay in Tucson under new head coach Brent Brennan, who joins the Wildcats from San Jose State.

Arizona keeps its two best offensive players, which were the engine in helping turn around the program, but loses its coach and over 20 players to the transfer portal, while bringing in only four.

It’s going to be interesting to see if Brennan can keep a good thing going in Tucson in the Wildcats’ inaugural year in the Big 12.

Nov. 9: vs. BYU

Emotions are always heightened when the two longtime rivals get together, but the rivalry was a little less intense when the two schools weren’t in the same conference. With BYU and Utah in the same league for the first time since 2010, when they were both in the Mountain West, the rivalry game has a little something extra to it again.

Surprisingly, it’s not slotted on the last week of the regular season, as it had been when the two teams were in the same conference, but the game returns to the month of November. The Big 12 appears to be spreading out rivalry games throughout October and November to give each game a chance to shine.

Utah and BYU both have bye weeks ahead of the Nov. 9 game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, so both teams will be prepared and coming off much-needed rest as they start toward the home stretch of the season.

Depending on how the season goes, this could be a pivotal matchup, with only three Big 12 games left for each school after the rivalry game. As it always is when Utah and BYU line up across from each other, it’s going to be a game fans have circled and one that both teams will be fired up for.

Nov. 16: at Colorado

As long as Deion Sanders is the head coach at Colorado, matchups against the Buffaloes are always going to carry intrigue.

Everywhere Sanders coaches, from Jackson, Mississippi to Boulder, Colorado, has been one of the more talked-about stories in college football. After the media frenzy in Boulder following Colorado’s 3-0 start, the Buffaloes tailed off to a 4-8 record, only defeating Arizona State in conference play.

Colorado’s depth was lacking, and its offensive line was one of the worst in college football, prompting Sanders to say, “The big picture, you get new linemen. That’s the picture and I’ma paint it perfectly.”

That’s precisely what Colorado has done. The Buffaloes added the No. 1 offensive lineman in the 2024 class, tackle Jordan Seaton, plus Houston guard Tyler Johnson, UConn center Yakiri Walker, Indiana tackle Kahlil Benson and UTEP guard Justin Mayers.

There’s been plenty of transfer portal shakeup, with 24 incoming transfers and 13 outgoing transfers, per 247Sports, but it all starts with a solid offensive line. If Colorado has that, its offense becomes a force to be reckoned with.

Quarterback Shedeur Sanders and two-way player Travis Hunter are back, and if things break right for the Buffaloes, Nov. 16 in Boulder could be a fun matchup to watch.

In case you missed it

Utah’s inaugural Big 12 football schedule was released on Tuesday. From a tough start to the conference slate to two bye weeks, here’s what stands out about the conference slate for the Utes.

From the archives

Extra points

  • The University of Utah will be represented at Super Bowl LVIII (Deseret News)
  • How will conference realignment affect Utah gymnastics? (Deseret News)
  • After another key injury, who’s healthy and available for Utah basketball? (Deseret News)

Up next

  • Feb. 2 | 6 p.m. | Gymnastics | Oregon State | @ Salt Lake City
  • Feb. 2 | 8 p.m. | Women’s basketball | Washington | @ Seattle
  • Feb. 3 | 3 p.m. | Men’s basketball | Colorado | @ Salt Lake City
  • Feb. 4 | 1 p.m. | Women’s basketball | Washington State | @ Pullman, Washington

All times MST