Utah to open vs. Arizona, will play twice on Fridays as Pac-12 releases football schedule

Utah running back Zack Moss (2) runs for a first down against Arizona during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

This weird, winding, uncertain 2020 college football season will begin for the University of Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The Utes, 11-3 last season and winners of the last two Pac-12 South Division titles, will open their truncated seven-game season at home Nov. 7 vs. Arizona as the league released its schedule Saturday morning.

With each team playing three home games and three away games, Utah will also host USC on Nov. 21 and Oregon State on Dec. 5. The Utes will travel to UCLA on Nov. 13, Arizona State on Nov. 28, and Colorado for the regular-season finale on Dec. 11. The UCLA and Colorado games will be played on Friday nights. For what it’s worth, the original Pac-12 schedule released in January had the Utes playing at the Rose Bowl on a Thursday night.

Game times and TV designations will be released at a later date, but the Pac-12 specified in its press release Saturday morning that every game through the first six weeks will be televised on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, FOX or FS1. That means the much-maligned Pac-12 Network will not get a game over that span.

Despite two Friday night road games, Utah’s schedule comes off as favorable. The Utes get South Division favorite USC at home, plus a manageable North crossover opponent, Oregon State, also at home. The middle-two games of the Utes' schedule, vs. USC and at Arizona State, potentially hold massive division-title implications.

There had been much consternation in recent days as to how the Pac-12 would schedule crossover games between the two divisions, but it wound up doing so logically by not blowing up future league scheduling rotations. Under the original pre-pandemic schedule, Utah was already scheduled to host Oregon State in a divisional crossover matchup.

The league is clearly willing to try different things with this schedule, which is good because the Pac-12 will be the last Power Five conference to kickoff and can use all the positive publicity it can get. There are eight Friday night games scheduled, including UCLA at Oregon, which will mark Bruins head coach Chip Kelly returning to Eugene, and three traditional rivalry games on Black Friday, Stanford-Cal, Washington-Washington State and Arizona-Arizona State.

Speaking to the Pac-12′s willingness to schedule outside the box, the league’s very first game on Nov. 7 will be Arizona State-USC, a critical early-season South Division matchup, complete with a 9 a.m. PT kickoff at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has indicated recently that early-morning kickoffs were on the table, something Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said earlier this week the Utes would be on board for. It remains to be seen if Utah will draw a 10 a.m. MT (at home) or 9 a.m. local kickoff (on the West Coast) this fall.

The schedule release comes nine days after the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors voted to restart the football season, thanks in large part to the presence of daily-antigen testing.

Saturday marked the third time in more than nine months the league released a 2020 schedule, following the original slate in January and the altered 10-game conference-only version on July 31.


All times TBD

Nov. 7, vs. Arizona

Nov. 13, at UCLA

Nov. 21, vs. USC

Nov. 28, at Arizona State

Dec. 5, vs. Oregon State (CROSSOVER)

Dec. 11, at Colorado

Dec. 18 or 19, Pac-12 championship game or North crossover