Stephanie Edwards believes she’s a good luck charm for the Utah Utes football team.
“Every time I’m there, we win,” Edwards said.
Edwards, a 35-year-old hardcore Utes fan, hasn’t missed a home game since 2007 except one — the 2016 matchup against Washington State — to attend her grandmother’s funeral. The players and coaching staff, including coach Kyle Whittingham, know her by name. She bakes homemade chocolate chip cookies for Whittingham and delivers them to his office personally before every season.
And to open Utah’s 2022 season, Edwards traveled to Gainsville, Fla., to see her beloved Utes take on Florida. She’s been counting the days since the Rose Bowl game.
Utes fans like Edwards are extra antsy for this season to get underway. The Associated Press ranked Utah No. 7 in its Top 25 poll. Quarterback Cam Rising is back, as are some of the most productive and impactful Utes from last season.
And to top it off, there’s talk that the Utes have a legitimate chance to reach the College Football Playoff.
“It’s another type of feeling going into it due to the success recently and the buildup from the past,” longtime fan Travis Vallejo said.
Tony Korologos also traveled to Florida for the game. As he endured the sticky humidity, he expressed cautious optimism for the upcoming Utah football season, having been a fan since the days Utah enjoyed much less success.
But even for Korologos, he can’t remember another prior season where they hype was this intense.
“This is probably as high as I’ve seen it,” said Korologos, who runs the online fan forum UteHub.com.
Vallejo won’t attend the Utah-Florida game in person. He’s organizing a watch party at a bar in West Valley City for the fan group he started in 2004, Ute Fan Faithful. He grew up attending various Utah sporting events with his uncles, providing the basis for his love of the Utes. He’s not only on the hype train — he’s the conductor.
“This is the first time we’ve been at this level going into the season,” Vallejo said. “I honestly feel that way. It’s very unique, very special. The passion I have for it, I’m trying to figure out how to deal with it with my expectations.”
For Vallejo, this is the year the Utes must “put up or shut up.” Edwards thinks Utah has a 50-70% chance of reaching the College Football Playoff.
Korologos, spoken like a true cautious optimist, was more measured in his take about making it to the Final Four of college football.
“I think at the max, we can possibly make it even with one loss,” Korologos said. “A lot would have to go right for us to make it through the season with just one loss or zero losses.”
Edwards will be watching Utah against Florida from near the the tunnel where the Utes will take the field — close enough to slap five with them. In her mind, 2022 could be historic for Utah from not only an on-field perspective, but an emotional one. The last two numbers of this calendar year are the same ones once worn by late teammates Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe — and later retied by the university — adding even more significance to the season.
“I think it’s going to be a special year,” Edwards said. “It’s 22 for 22 — for Ty and Aaron.”