AP Top 25: Utah football debuts with its highest preason ranking ever, BYU in at No. 25

Utes were slotted at No. 8 in the initial AFCA Coaches Poll last week.

(Hunter Dyke | Utah Athletics) Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham speaks to his team during football practice in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 03, 2022.

The University of Utah will open its season on Sept. 3 at the University of Florida ranked inside the top 10 of both national polls.

The Utes, 10-4 overall and first-time Pac-12 champions last season, debuted in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 on Monday morning at No. 7. This marks the sixth time Utah has been ranked in the preseason by the AP, which has been producing a preseason poll since 1950.

The AP ranking comes a week after Utah appeared at No. 8 in the initial AFCA Coaches Poll. At the time, No. 8 was the highest preseason ranking in program history.

Oregon checked in Monday at No. 11, while USC was No. 14. Utah will host the Trojans at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Oct. 15, then later travels to Eugene to take on the Ducks on Nov. 19.

Meanwhile, BYU sneaked in at No. 25 in the AP Poll after being left off the Coaches Poll. The Cougars are the third incoming Big 12 member to be ranked, after Cincinnati (No. 23) and Houston (No. 24). The Cougars will begin Big 12 play in 2023.

BYU’s home-opening opponent, Baylor, checked in No. 10 in the AP Poll. The week after, BYU will be on the road against the aforementioned Ducks.

Four of BYU’s opponents start the season ranked. Notre Dame, which BYU will play in Las Vegas on Oct. 8, is ranked No. 5 in both the Coaches and AP Poll. Arkansas is ranked No. 19 after being No. 21 in the first Coaches Poll.

Utah State, BYU’s Week 5 matchup, received two votes.

QB2 still TBD

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said multiple times in the past two weeks that he hoped to have his backup quarterback settled after the first scrimmage.

That timeline has been extended as Whittingham on Monday was not ready to choose between Bryson Barnes and Ja’Quinden Jackson. That camp competition will now drag into this weekend, when the Utes are slated to scrimmage for a second and final time.

“They both had outstanding scrimmages, and they’re the two guys that are competing, it’s down to them exclusively for the No. 2 guy,” Whittingham said. “We’ll have an answer coming out of the next scrimmage, exactly how we’re going to approach it.”

Added offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig: “Still grinding through it, both those guys are competing very hard, and we’re in a good situation right now. We’d like to make a formal decision probably after the next scrimmage and give these guys another week of work.”

Eight offensive linemen in the mix after first scrimmage

After Utah scrimmaged for the first time on Saturday, offensive line coach Jim Harding on Monday afternoon said he believes he has eight players he will go into the season with, barring injuries.

Harding suggested the starting right tackle job remains up for grabs between Jaren Kump and Falcon Kaumatale. Kump, who is coming off season-ending knee surgery, is thought to be the favorite, though Harding pointed out that Kump is rusty, having practiced only 10 times in the past 10 months.

“Those 10 practices have been since we got back,” Harding said on a Zoom call. “Having been hurt at the end of September, and certainly through spring practice, he did footwork stuff in the back and did all that he could.

“It was certainly no fault of his own, but the bottom line is, he still has only practiced 10 days. The kid has an extremely high care factor, a great work ethic. He’s in the top eight, he’s pushing for the top five.”

Another undetermined spot is at center where the Utes are monitoring a battle between Paul Maile and Johnny Maea, per Harding.

That would indicate that seven of the top eight are Braeden Daniels, Keaton Bills, Sataoa Laumea, Kump, Kaumatule, Maile and Maea. Daniels, Bills (left guard), and Laumea (right guard) are all incumbent starters, although Daniels is shifting from right tackle to left tackle.