Utah football gets an ‘ideal’ matchup with Washington State, but will wait on Arizona kickoff time

Plus: Utes coach Kyle Whittingham continues to keep mum on Tavion Thomas’ situation.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kyle Whittingham as the University of Utah hosts USC, NCAA football in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022.

The University of Utah is in the middle of a bit of a scheduling oddity.

Out of an open week following a come-from-behind 43-42 win over USC, the 14th-ranked Utes are not getting the customary two weeks between games, but rather 12 days as they head to Washington State for a Thursday night matchup in Pullman (8 p.m., Fox Sports 1).

That could be construed as a negative, losing two days and having to go on the road to what is perceived as one of the Pac-12′s tougher road environments, but Kyle Whittingham views it the other way.

“I think this is the ideal scenario, if you have a bye, to have it come on a Thursday so you get an extra couple of days the following week,” the Utah head coach said Monday morning during his normal weekly press conference. “I think sometimes you can get a little stale going the full two weeks, so I think if you were to map it out, this is exactly how we would want it to play out. I don’t think it could be any more beneficial, at least in terms of preparation and the time sequencing.”

Beyond Thursday, Utah is home to Arizona on Nov. 5, meaning, off a Thursday game, it will have an extra day of rest and preparation.

Whittingham gave his team two days off after the USC win, although the Utes did watch film on that Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday were off days, then things picked up on Thursday as if it were a normal Monday practice, which is generally just a walkthrough.

As is customary, Sunday was an off day. Monday afternoon was slated to be what Whittingham called a “Wednesday/Thursday hybrid practice.” Tuesday, which is usually Utah’s most physical day of practice of the week, is expected to be more like a typical Thursday, which puts Utah on schedule to have Wednesday and Thursday be comparable to a Friday and Saturday, which will of course include travel to the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday.

Whittingham remains mum on Tavion Thomas’ status

As conjecture over Tavion Thomas continues to swirl, Whittingham is going to continue keeping that situation out of public view.

“We’ve got it sorted out. That’s going to be kept internal, we’re not going to tip our hand there, but we feel like we’ve got the guys for this week in the right pecking order, plugged into the game plan, maximizing their strengths.”

In the aftermath of the win over USC, ESPN 700 reported that Thomas had taken his pads off and left the game early. Video evidence later emerged, showing Thomas with his jersey on but shoulder pads off, running off the field by himself as the celebrations began on the field.

Whittingham was asked twice after the game about Thomas’ status, once in his postgame press conference and again on the ESPN 700 postgame show. Both times, Whittingham pleaded ignorance. Two days later, he addressed it, offering a similarly coy answer to what he gave on Monday morning.

“We’ll keep all that internal, regardless of what it is, unless there’s something very permanent in nature,” Whittingham said Oct. 17.

Whether or not Thomas is part of the equation on Thursday night, Micah Bernard may continue to see an increased role.

The fourth-year sophomore has 28 touches across the last two games, including a team co-leading 11 carries vs. the Trojans. Whittingham has repeatedly noted that Bernard is his most-versatile backfield option, specifically in pass protection and as a pass-catcher.

Those last two factors are important to note as Cam Rising is coming off a career-high 43 pass attempts, while Whittingham indicated during the bye that the Utes may go more pass-heavy than they usually do.

Utah-Arizona placed in six-day hold

The Pac-12 on Monday morning released kickoff times and broadcast designations for games on Nov. 5, but Utah-Arizona was not one of them.

That contest at Rice-Eccles Stadium was placed in a six-day hold, which essentially means the networks want to see how this weekend’s games play out before making a decision. Oregon-Colorado and UCLA-Arizona State were also placed in the six-day window.

All three games will have kickoff times and broadcast designations announced either late Saturday night or early in the day on Sunday. Per the Pac-12, the time/broadcast options for those three games are 1:30 p.m. (ABC or ESPN), 5:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Network), or 8:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1).

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