College football games, week 1: Utah aims to make a statement as favorite against Florida in The Swamp

None of this is really new to Utah. It’s been over 13 years since the Utes beat then-No. 4 Alabama in the sugar bowl. Utah has played in three of the last four Pac-12 championship games, finally breaking through last season for its first Pac-12 title.

In what could be the most important game of Week 1, No. 7 Utah goes to Florida as a kind of accidental national power. Underrated in a poorly respected conference, the Utes are no longer a curiosity. Their coach, Kyle Whittingham, has developed a legitimate playoff contender in his 18th season at the helm of the program.

Utah has its inspirational quarterback Texas to transfer Cameron Rising, an intimidating front seven on defense and the respect of CBS Sports. Our experts were all about the Utes when making their college football playoff preseason pick.

And we are not alone. Utah enters The Swamp on Saturday as a 3-point favorite.

“I think we are still fighting for [recognition] in a way,” said Whittingham, who was tied with Oklahoma State Mike Gundy as FBS’ second-longest starting coach. “We’re a program that’s always working on a brand, trying to get more of a national presence. But you have to earn it. The way you do that is every time you get a chance on national television, you ‘must play your way in that respect.’

The next step is to be the first Pac-12 team to advance to the CFP in the past six years. A big reason the league lost USC and UCLA – and finds himself vulnerable to fresh starts – that’s because he hasn’t accomplished much on the pitch lately.

Beating Florida is important, but the next move after that is surviving whatever the Pac-12 becomes. In other words, to become that legit national power.

Utah is facing an SEC opponent for only the eighth time in its history, the first time since that victory over Alabama. Win and a path to the top four opens up. USC is comfortable in what looks like a do-or-die game on Oct. 15. Apart from a trip to Oregon November 19, Utah’s only road games will be held Arizona StateUCLA, washington state and Colorado.

Only six active FBS coaches have more wins than Whittingham’s 144. Florida’s Billy Napier has 40 Louisiana but makes his debut with the Gators on Saturday night.

Win or lose, let’s just say Utah has options once USC and UCLA leave the Pac-12. It may be the best program in the league right now. (It’s definitely the most powerful.) You don’t have to be an insider to be familiar with the physicality of Utah.

“We’re going to make you feel when we’re on the court,” Rising said. “We’re going to run the ball down your throat. We’re going to throw it over it. The defense is going to come with some animosity.”

college football needs a Cinderella. An expanded playoff will most certainly provide that. So far, Cincinnati is the closest thing to going 12-0 last season before being sent by Alabama to the CFP. If Utah enters the Football Four this season, it would be the third starter in the group in the past two years (Michigan and Cincinnati the others).

That’s why the Pac-12 jokes and jabs can stop (or at least be muffled) in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday night.

“When you get the chance to go to SEC country, to play a legendary program like Florida with their history in a place like The Swamp, that’s a challenge for our guys,” Whittingham said. “It’s important for the Pac-12 to make a splash on the national stage whenever we have opportunities like this.”

State of Ohio-Notre Dame: Even if Jim Knowles had not been brought to fix the defense, the No. 2 Buckeyes could arguably outplay everyone en route to a playoff spot. But that defense is fixed and the game between two super brands shouldn’t be one on the pitch. Not in Marcus Freeman’s second game as manager of the No. 5 Fighting Irish, who open the season as a 17.5-point underdog in The Shoe.

Duck! If Alabama didn’t exist, we’d be talking about #3 Georgia go back to back. The defense will be top 10, instead of generational. But the tight ends room is the best in the country. You know Kirby Smart will direct the ball, and Stetson Bennet is an established starter at quarterback, which is pretty rare in his own conference. This is another case of a first-time coach stepping into the belly of the beast. It’s probably a good idea that new Oregon coach Dan Lanning — the Georgia superstar’s former defensive coordinator — didn’t identify his starting quarterback. “I know who the quarterback will be,” Smart said. Count on transfer Bo Nixa three-year-old starter at Auburngetting the nod for the No. 11 Ducks. In three starts — all lost — against the Bulldogs, Nix has been kept below his career average in completion percentage, passing yards and rushing yards .

Too Many Wolverines: Jim Harbaugh argued against the old adage: If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t. Going into the season opener against state of coloradothe Michigan coach has at least found a way to keep his quarterback room intact in this era of If I don’t start, I’m leaving. He will alternate starters in at least the first two games between the holder Cade McNamara and second JJ McCarthy. McNamara will start against the Rams. McCarthy will start next week against Hawaii. A permanent starter will be named for Week 3 when Michigan’s No. 8 faces Northern Illinois. McNamara, who led the Wolverines to the Big Ten title and a playoff berth last year, was named captain. If McCarthy, a sophomore with more benefits, doesn’t get the permanent job, Harbaugh’s next trick will keep him out of the transfer gate.

JRP observation: One could write a book about resurrected careers thanks to the transfer portal, but the story of UCF strategist John Rhys Plumlee is unique. Gumby would be jealous of this guy’s flexibility and versatility. In 2019, the Plumlee ensemble be missfreshman rushing record (1,023 yards). Last year, he played his first 100-yard receiving game. Plumlee’s partnership with Gus Malzahn looks promising after the departure of Dillon-Gabriel at Oklahoma (once Caleb Williams left for USC). It’s a long way, or maybe not, from freshman All-American receiver to Matt Corral receiver to AAC quarterback. The Knights open with state of south carolina.

Advantages of the portal: Maybe Clay Helton wasn’t the man from USC. He is, however, one of the greatest collectors of quarterback talent in school history. Three guys he recruited will debut in the Power Five conferences this weekend. Former Pac-12 Rookie of the Year Kedon Slovis succeeds Kenny Pickett at Pittsburghformer five star JT Daniels is in his third school at West Virginiaand passer for 1,300 yards Jaxson Dart takes over at Ole Miss.

Greene Retrospective: Bryan Harsin was going to have a hard time keeping his job with or without the athletic director who hired him, Allen Greene. But Greene is gone and Auburn starts the season with a tune-up against Mercier. A focus for what, exactly? Auburn is playing, at least by one measure, the toughest schedule in the country. Nix is ​​gone, for better or for worse. By hiring Harsin, Greene went over the heads of Auburn influencers who wanted former Tigers defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. If Scott Frost has the hottest seat at the start of the season, Harsin is 1B. Good leads, AG, to a class act.

Best chance of being upset in week 1: Central Michigan on Oklahoma State in Stillwater. The Chippewas have the 2021 leading rusher Lew Nichols III just wrapped up a season in which they won nine games for the first time since 2009. The Cowboys are 12-0 against Group of Five teams since losing to Central Michigan in 2016.

Quick hits: Example 1,267 of what realignment has done to rivalries: The Backyard Brawl between West Virginia and Pittsburgh is renewed for the first time since 2011. The Mountaineers haven’t been the same since Rich Rodriguez led his team to the brink of a BCS berth to be upset by the Panthers 13-9 in 2007. Rich Rod accepted, then turned down, the job at Alabama. West Virginia has only been ranked at the end of the season six times since… Texas (host ULM) is coming off its longest losing streak (six games) in 65 years with one of these defeats at the hands of Kansas. The problem should be publish a depth chart … There are 15 real road favorites in Week 1 in games involving only FBS teams … No. 1 Alabama (host Utah State) won Nick Saban’s first 15 games by double digits… USLBrian Kelly is also not announcing his starting quarterback until Sunday’s opener against state of florida in New Orleans. Slight lean expected to go to Arizona State transfer Jayden Danielsa senior whose passer rating declined during his three years in the desert.

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