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Analysis: What Kyle Whittingham thinks about Utes’ 2021 Pac-12 schedule

A couple of things jumped out to coach Kyle Whittingham in terms of timing — a game against South Division rival USC in early October and a late-November game against Oregon

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Utah coach Kyle Whittingham talks to reporters during a University of Utah football practice at the Eccles Football Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 26, 2019.

Spenser Heaps, Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

As Utah’s 2021 Pac-12 football schedule was released Tuesday morning, coach Kyle Whittingham wasn’t surprised by what he saw. But a couple of things did jump out to him in terms of timing — a game against South Division rival USC in early October and a late-November game against Oregon. 

“You always know who you’re going to play. You just don’t know in what order and, of course, what days. There’s a couple of non-Saturday games in there,” Whittingham told the Pac-12 Network. “When you look at it, it’s pretty much laid out as we expected. We typically play USC early in the season — same thing this year. We’ve got Oregon late in the year at our place, which could be affected by weather. Of course, we always finish with Colorado at the end. So not a lot of surprises. It looks solid. We’ll see what happens.”


2021 Utah football schedule

Thursday, Sept. 2 — Weber State

Saturday, Sept. 11 — at BYU

Saturday, Sept. 18 — at San Diego State

Saturday, Sept. 25 — Washington State

Saturday, Oct. 2 — BYE

Saturday, Oct. 9 — at USC

Saturday, Oct. 16 — Arizona State

Saturday, Oct. 23 — at Oregon State

Saturday, Oct. 30 — UCLA

Friday, Nov. 5 — at Stanford

Saturday, Nov. 13 — at Arizona

Saturday, Nov. 20 — Oregon

Friday, Nov. 26 — Colorado

Utah will play six home games in 2021 and has three non-Saturday games, including two Friday contests. 

“Six days of preparation rather than seven is not a huge deal,” Whittingham said of the Friday games. “We’ve done that so many times. It doesn’t really bother us at all.”

Utah kicks off Pac-12 play on Sept. 25 at home against Washington State. The Utes’ final game of the 2020 season was at home against WSU. Utah rallied from a 28-7 halftime deficit to score 38 unanswered points and earn a 45-28 victory.  

“Ironically enough, it was our last game of this past season. So we’re playing them back-to-back in terms of conference play,” Whittingham said. “They gave us all we could handle last year. We were down big-time at half and we rallied and were able to win the game. But it will be a great matchup. It’s tough to stop that passing attack.”

The following week, the Utes have their only bye of the season, on Oct. 2. The bye comes at an ideal time, Whittingham said, just before Utah’s first Pac-12 road game, when it travels to USC on Oct. 9. The Utes’ last win at the Coliseum was in 1916. 

“When you look at fall camp, and the season combined, that at Week 4 is about midway,” he explained. “It’s not midway of the season, obviously, but when you combine two-a-days and the grind that that is, that gives them a nice break right at about the midpoint. It’s always great to have a little extra time to prepare for the Trojans.”

Utah returns home Oct. 16 to take on Arizona State, followed by another road game at Oregon State on Oct. 23 and a home game against UCLA on Oct 30. 

In the month of November, Utah will start with two road games (Nov.  5 at Stanford and Nov. 13 at Arizona) and then will finish up with a pair of home games (Nov. 20 against Oregon and Nov. 26 against Colorado).

Before its conference schedule, Utah opens the season with three nonconference games. The Utes starts with a home game against Weber State, which will be the debut of the Ken Garff Performance Zone at Rice-Eccles Stadium. That contest will be played Thursday, Sept. 2. Utah has won 13 of its last 14 season openers.

On Sept. 11, the Utes travel to Provo to face in-state rival BYU. Utah has won nine straight games against the Cougars. 

The Utes close out the nonconference portion of their slate by visiting San Diego State Sept. 18. It will mark Utah’s first game against the Aztecs since a 38-34 victory at Qualcomm Stadium. 

The Pac-12 championship game is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 3 in Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Times and television information for the 2021 schedule will be announced at a later date.

The Utes are coming off a 3-2 record in the truncated 2020 season due to the pandemic. Utah opened with back-to-back losses before winning three in a row to end the campaign. The Utes opted not to play in a bowl game

Whittingham said he’ll address the schedule with his players.

“You do look at the schedule in its entirety at the beginning of fall camp so they know how it lays out and where the bye week falls and what non-Saturday contests to be ready for,” he said. “But once you’ve given the overall look one time, you just focus on one game at a time.”