Mike Terry, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — It'll be a whole new ballgame for the Utah Utes this fall. Moving from the Mountain West Conference to the Pac-12 has certainly altered — and significantly upgraded — the schedule.
The overhaul includes the end of several annual meetings for the Utes. For the first time since 1982, they won't play New Mexico. San Diego State and Wyoming have been on the schedule each year since 1998; Air Force, Colorado State and UNLV since 1999; and TCU since 2005.
Utah's new conference foes include Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State.
The Utes will face South Division foes Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, UCLA and USC on a yearly basis in the regular season. The other matchups will rotate on a two-year cycle. They won't play Oregon and Stanford in 2011 or 2012, California and Washington State in 2013 or 2014, Stanford or Washington in 2015 or 2016, and California or Oregon State in 2017 or 2018.
Although Utah has faced many of their new league mates in non-conference and/or bowl games in recent years, there hasn't been a lot of regularity.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledges things will be different, a lot different.
"Every team is new, but the flip side of that is we're new to every other team — except for a couple of teams we've played," he said. "So I don't really foresee that as an advantage or disadvantage. That's kind of a wash."
To prepare for the challenges ahead, Whittingham had each member of the coaching break down an assigned Pac-12 team over the offseason.
"We did our homework last summer. We scouted every single Pac-12 team this summer and did a preliminary scout report," Whittingham said. "Then, obviously, we'll do our in-depth scout report the week of whoever we're playing that week."
The hiring of former USC and UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow also enhanced Utah's preparation.
"With Norm on board that gave us a lot of insight, right there, as far as personnel on other teams and schematics," Whittingham said. "And so we feel it's new to us, it's new to them, let's line up and play."
It's been the talk of the town since the invitation to join the conference was extended to Utah more than a year ago. Whittingham and the players have been bombarded with questions about it ever since.
How will the original "BCS Busters" fare in an automatic qualifying conference?
Can the Utes take the pounding of a BCS schedule and a run for the roses on a weekly basis?
No more trips to Laramie, eh?
Such repeated inquiries, however, have failed to dampen Utah's enthusiasm for the switch — especially for seniors like offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom.
"You couldn't ask for a better way to go out," he said. "It really is kind of a dream come true."
How the Utes have fared against their new conference foes
Arizona: Utah holds a 19-15-2 edge against the Wildcats. The Utes won the past two games — 23-6 (Tucson, 2004) and 27-24 (Salt Lake City, 2005).
Arizona State: The Sun Devils have won seven straight against the Utes and lead the series, 16-6. They haven't played since 1993 and ASU hasn't visited Salt Lake City since 1977.
California: Three meetings since 2000 have been decided by 10 points or less. Utah has won the past two, but trails 4-3 in the series. Before the recent games, the Utes and Bears had not played since 1964.
Colorado: Talk about a dormant series. The Buffaloes and Utes met 57 times before the one-time rivalry took a hiatus after 1962. Colorado holds a 30-24-3 advantage.
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