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Utah football: Utes debut at No. 20 in first coaches poll of season

SHARE Utah football: Utes debut at No. 20 in first coaches poll of season

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham pumps his fist after beating the Washington Huskies in Seattle on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. Utah won 33-28.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — There is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the college football season this fall, but the Utah Utes will start it out as a top-20 team, at least according to one major poll.

The preseason USA Today Amway Coaches Poll was released Thursday, and the Utes slot in at No. 20 despite the fact that it will be a rebuilding year in many respects for head coach Kyle Whittingham and company.

Joining Utah from the Pac-12 in the poll are Oregon (No. 9) and USC (No. 17). The Utes are scheduled to play both teams in back-to-back weeks on Nov. 27 and Dec. 5 to close out the regular season, with both contests set to be played in Salt Lake City.

Clemson is ranked No. 1 in the poll released Thursday after losing in the College Football Playoff national championship game last season to LSU, which is ranked No. 5.

Ohio State, Alabama and Georgia came in at 2, 3 and 4, respectively. After LSU, Oklahoma, Penn State and Florida precede Oregon, and Notre Dame rounds out the top 10.

Iowa State is ranked No. 25.

Pac-12 teams to also have received votes are Arizona State, Washington, Washington State, Cal and Stanford.

Utah is scheduled to open its season Sept. 26 against Washington State on the road, starting what at this point is expected to be a 10-game conference-only regular season. Stanford is the only team in this group that the Utes are not scheduled to play.

In 2019, the Utes were knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff before losing to the Ducks by 22 in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Utah then lost by 28 to Texas in the Alamo Bowl to finish the season on a disappointing note.

The Utes will be replacing quarterback Tyler Huntley, running back Zack Moss and most of the regular starters of what was a very stout 2019 defense from last year’s team, although leading tackler Devin Lloyd will be back.

The BYU Cougars have had games against No. 18 Minnesota, Utah, Arizona State and Stanford canceled (also the Big Ten’s Michigan State, which does not appear in the poll), but currently has games against two teams that received votes: Navy (season opener on Sept. 7 in Maryland announced Thursday) and Boise State (Nov. 6 in Boise).

Utah State has two games against Mountain West Conference foes that received votes Thursday, an Oct. 17 road date against Boise State and a Nov. 28 home game against Air Force to close out the regular season.

The Aggies had contests against Washington State and Washington canceled.