SALT LAKE CITY — If any waiters are wondering, Kyle Whittingham will happily take the early-bird special on Saturday mornings this fall.

The Utah football coach wouldn’t mind if you spread that word to whomever schedules Pac-12 starting times, either. Early kickoff times for the upcoming Pac-12 season were a topic during Wednesday’s virtual media day, and Whittingham let it be known that he’d rather play sooner than later.

“We practice in the morning. For us, it’s business as usual as far as the body clock. As far as playing a live football game, we haven’t done that. No one in our conference has done that. When you get to play on national television against a team like USC, it brings excitement to our players.” — ASU coach Herm Edwards

A conference that so often gets its national TV window in the #Pac12AfterDark spot with 8 and 8:30 p.m. late-night kickoffs will break from tradition when it begins league play on Nov. 7. USC will host Arizona State at 9 a.m. local time in Southern California. It’s believed to be the earliest start in conference history.

Consider Whittingham a bit envious — and hopeful that some of his team’s six games will get the coveted kickoff time.

“It wouldn’t bother us a bit,” Whittingham said. “And we would take as many of those as they offer to us.”

Not every coach is happy with the prospects of playing at a time that used to be reserved for Saturday morning cartoons.

“I think it’s early,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “Kids don’t go to bed at 9 o’clock at night. They just don’t and aren’t built that way. They need sleep, and sleep enhances performance. I’m not a fan.”

Shaw said a 9 a.m. kickoff means a 6 a.m. wake-up call.

Arizona State’s Herm Edwards is fine with that, especially considering his highly touted team — picked to finish second in the Pac-12 South by media — is facing division favorite USC on FOX in a primo noon Eastern time slot.

“We practice in the morning. For us, it’s business as usual as far as the body clock,” Edwards said. “As far as playing a live football game, we haven’t done that. No one in our conference has done that. When you get to play on national television against a team like USC, it brings excitement to our players.”

The 9 a.m. start will be the earliest for USC since the Trojans were called the Methodists and played Loyola at 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning in 1891, according to Pac-12 writer Jon Wilner of The Mercury News.

“To have this opportunity, we’re all excited about it,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “It wasn’t long ago we were watching other teams play, and it hurts your soul.”

Helton has a simple approach to kickoff times. Just tell the Trojans when to show up and play.

“Put the ball down,” Helton said. “We don’t care what day it is, what time it is, we just want to play the game we love.”

As a presumed bonus, the earlier starting times would likely lead to a bigger viewing audience compared to the games that are played when some people are waking up for a midnight snack instead of getting ready to devour waffles.

Related
Abbreviated season isn’t optimal, but Utes agree it’s ‘better than nothing’
What’s on Utah coach Kyle Whittingham’s mind? Fall camp, fans at games, expanded playoffs and, yes, Eddie Van Halen
Utah Utes football picked to finish third in Pac-12 South. Who’s favored to win the conference title?

“That’s what you want. You want to be able to play on the biggest stage with the brightest lights, and to be able to have that national scene see us play right off the bat,” Helton said. “You gotta take that, and that’s an advantage for you.”

During an ESPN700 interview, Ute athletics director Mark Harlan said he’s also all in on the early kicks.

“We think it would be a great opportunity for our brand and for our young people to compete on such a big stage,” he said.

On a scale that bottoms out at 8 p.m. and goes up to 10 a.m., Whittingham is all-mid-morning, all the time. He said he’s “as willing as you could possibly be” to play in the early slot.

“Whatever the maximum willingness level is, that’s where we’d be at,” Whittingham said. “Our opinion has always been the sooner we can get on the field, the better. It provides no advantage for either team. They’re both kicking off at the same time. We’ve always been strong proponents here.”

Oh, and please bring that with a side of orange juice and bacon.