Utah Football Set to Face First Ranked Opponent, No. 18 UCLA

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Jack Gambassi

University of Utah defensive end Chase Kennedy (#13) warms up before the NCAA football game against SDSU on Sept. 17, 2022, at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sean Overton, Sports Writer

 

After a dominating performance against Oregon State, No. 11 Utah football is headed to southern California to face the No. 18 UCLA Bruins. Oregon State had nearly beat No. 6 USC the week before, and were looking like a tough team. Utah came into the game strong, and ended with a 42-16 victory.

Although Oregon State was looking like a competitive team, Utah’s matchup with UCLA looks to be much tougher. The Bruins are the first ranked team that Utah has played this year.

UCLA is undefeated this season, with a ranked win over No. 15 Washington last week. This game will be a challenge for the Utes, especially on defense. UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson has had a phenomenal season, and will pose a large defensive threat to Utah.

“Not that he wasn’t good before, but he’s really taken his game to another level,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham told NBC Sports. “Seems to be very poised. Makes plays, takes care of the ball and he’s a dual-threat.”

UCLA averages 506.4 yards per game, much higher than the 278.6 that Utah has allowed this season, but Utah’s defense has held strong this season, and UCLA will be their first big challenge.

On the other side of the ball, UCLA has allowed opponents 318 yards per game, surprisingly high for a ranked team. Utah’s offense, behind Cam Rising, should have little difficulty finding the endzone.

Rising has completed 95 of 139 attempts, also tallying 13 touchdowns. He is also Utah’s second best rusher, with 189 net yards and one rushing touchdown.

Utah’s offense looks strong coming into the game, but their defense will be the difference between a win and a loss. Utah should have no trouble scoring, but they will need to stop UCLA’s offense.

Utah’s defense has been absolutely phenomenal this season, grabbing 9 interceptions and 3 fumbles. But UCLA’s offense is by far the best that they’ve seen so far this season.

The defense will need to step up, especially key players like Clark Phillips III and Karene Reid. If they can match UCLA’s offense, Utah should be able to take this game by storm.

Although the Bruins are the undefeated team, Utah is still favored heading into the game as 3.5-point favorites.  UCLA has played an easier schedule than the Utes, and had a very narrow 32-31 win over University of South Alabama.

Utah’s first ranked opponent may set the precedent for the rest of the season. Utah will also be playing USC and Oregon, and the Utes will need to win out if they hope to make the postseason.

USC currently sits undefeated at 5-0, and Oregon sits at 4-1 with their only loss coming to Georgia. The top of the Pac-12 is very competitive, and Utah will need to win these key games if they hope to make it to the Rose Bowl for a second consecutive year.

After UCLA, the Utes will head home to face No. 6 USC. The Trojans have been playing strong this year, and it will be a must-win for both teams.

 

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