The warmup, as grueling as it was at times, is over.
Utah’s quest to three-peat as Pac-12 champs begins now — and it will reportedly begin without Cam Rising. ESPN’s Pete Thamel reports that Nate Johnson will start for the Utes today.
Here’s everything you need to know for Saturday’s game between the No. 11 Utes and the No. 22 UCLA Bruins.
How to watch Utah vs. UCLA
Kickoff: 1:30 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 700 AM/92.1 FM
Weather: Sunny with a high of 72
Keys to the game
1. Winning on the ground
UCLA would love to make life easy for freshman quarterback Dante Moore, a talented passer but one who is making his first start against a Pac-12 foe. The Bruins have been able to gash opposing defenses on the ground so far this season, averaging 270 yards per game (third best in the FBS). Running backs Carson Steele and TJ Harden are both averaging better than 9 yards per carry.
But Utah is a top-10 rushing defense, allowing just 65 yards in the first three games of the year.
“We’re not going to have to score 40 points most weeks to win,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “The defense has done a nice job of keeping teams out of the end zone and points off the board.”
2. Pressure the youngster
Whittingham has high praise for Moore’s abilities. “Going to be outstanding. He already is really good,” the Utah coach said when asked for his assessment of the freshman QB.
But if the Utes can slow the Bruins down on the ground, the weight of the game might feel heavy on the shoulders of the 18-year-old Moore.
3. Who’s healthy?
Whittingham has been wringing his hands and scratching his head as injuries continue to mount to start the season. By Whittingham’s count, a team has 35 players “that figure in prominently and when you’re down 16 of those guys … it starts to get pretty thin.”
At full strength, however, the Utes should have everything they need to contend for a Pac-12 title.
• With UCLA and USC heading to the Big 10, the Utes are shifting their recruiting strategy in California.
“I don’t think ‘overconfident’ comes into any conversation when you’re playing Utah. I don’t think that word exists when you’re playing this team.”
— UCLA coach Chip Kelly when asked about preventing his team from being over confident after beating Utah a year ago