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Utah Utes Look to Maintain Spot as Big 12 Favorite

Utah Utes
© Christopher Creveling/USA TODAY Sports

Don't mind the Utah Utes as they embrace their favorite's role entering their first Big 12 Conference season. Coach Kyle Whittingham is going to have his team ready to go.

"The university is very excited to be a new member of the Big 12," Whittingham said on Tuesday at the Big 12 Conference's Media Days in Las Vegas. "It's a really good conference. A lot of good coaches, good players. It's a new challenge for us, a new opportunity. We are definitely excited about the new playoff format.

"We've got a good football team coming back," Whittingham said. "A lot going for us and it all starts with our quarterback, Cam Rising. We missed him last year, obviously. But he's back and ready to go, barring any unforeseen setbacks."

Last season proved to be a tough one for the Utes. Injuries across the board didn't help at all. Utah finished 8-5 overall and 5-3 in Pac-12 Conference play. The Utes did get into bowl season, losing to Northwestern 14-7 in the Las Vegas Bowl. It was quite a fall from their 2022 season, where the Utes advanced to the Rose Bowl.

Audio of Whittingham's remarks at the Media Days event can be accessed here.

Utah Utes
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Utes Gain, Lose Players in Transfer Portal

Between seasons, Utah saw some players leave the team through the transfer portal. Among them were running back Ja’Quinden Jackson, quarterbacks Nate Johnson and Bryson Barnes, wide receiver Mikey Matthews, and cornerback JaTravis Broughton. Johnson and Barnes did their best to fill Rising's shoes.

Yet the team also added players, too. They include wide receivers Dorian Singer and Taeshaun Lyons, tight end Carsen Ryan and cornerback Kenan Johnson.

Whittingham also made a noteworthy announcement, too. He tapped defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley as the coach-in-waiting. No permanent announcement about Whittingham's future has been made, but he has made sure a line of succession is in place.

In comments to reporters on hand, Whittingham made sure to point out his team's defense. He even called it one of the Utes' "calling cards" since he's been coach.

Switching Conferences Again

Making a transition from one conference to another is nothing new for Utah. They went from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West Conference to the Pac-10 Conference, which turned into the Pac-12.

"We feel we have a roster that's equipped to compete right away," Whittingham said. "Obviously, the media feels the same way, being picked the favorite. I think that's a show of respect to our players and coaches."

When he's healthy, Rising is an electric quarterback. He has the ability to not only find receivers downfield. But he also will run with the ball if an opportunity is there. So, keep your eyes on Rising this season.

For more on Utah Utes football, keep checking back in with College Football Dawgs.


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