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Utah Utes football: Many Pac-12 schools avoid playing FCS programs

Published: Thursday, Sept. 3 2015 1:53 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Earlier this week, Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said his team would likely play an FCS team such as Montana State every year.

That makes sense considering the tough nine-game Pac-12 schedule the Utes face every year along with the rivalry game against BYU and another likely BCS foe. They need at least one supposed breather a year.

However, looking at the other Pac-12 teams, that isn't the norm for the whole conference. While every team from the SEC plays at least one lower-division school this year, four Pac-12 schools won't be playing any games against lower-division schools.

In fact, before this year only four schools had never played an FCS level school since 1978 when NCAA Division I was split. Besides Notre Dame, the other three are in the Pac-12 — USC, UCLA and Washington, although the Huskies will play Eastern Washington this year. This year, Stanford and Colorado won't be playing a lower-division school.

Most of those FCS games will be played this week with Arizona State hosting UC-Davis on Thursday night, Oregon State playing Sacramento State, Washington State going against Idaho State and Arizona playing Northern Arizona, in addition to the Utah-Montana State and Washington-Eastern Washington games.

HIGH ACADEMICS: Not only did Utah get into one of the top athletic conferences in the country when it joined the Pac-12, but one of the elite academic leagues in the world.

In the latest rankings by the Center of World-Class Universities of Shanhai Jiao Tong University, nine Pac-12 schools were listed among the top 100, and three in the top 12, more than any other league except the Ivy League.

Stanford was ranked No. 2, Cal No. 4 and UCLA No. 12, followed closely by Washington at No. 16. Colorado came in at 32, followed by USC at 46, Arizona State at 78, Utah at 79 and Arizona at 80.

CAL RB FROM UTAH: Former Cottonwood High running back Isi Sofele will be the starter for Cal this week against Fresno State. He has played in 25 games over the past two seasons and rushed for 338 yards on 69 carries a year ago for the Bears.

"We'll rely on him for as much as he can do, but we haven't usually relied on one player," said coach Jeff Tedford. "Isi's a good player, but he's not going to carry the ball for us 40 times a game, more like 20 to 25 times."

AROUND THE PAC-12: Partly due to the attrition of players leaving the program due to NCAA sanctions against the school, USC has 70 players out of 112 who will have never played a down of major college football when they face Minnesota Saturday ...

Another young team is Oregon State, which will have 10 true freshman on the traveling squad, according to coach Mike Riley. One of the freshmen, running back Malcolm Agnew, is expected to start ...

Arizona has a Lou Groza Award candidate in senior Alex Zendejas, but JC transfer Jaime Salazar won the placekicking job in camp ...

Arizona State has a talented receiving corps with Aaron Pflugard, Gerell Robinson and Mike Willie, who combined to catch 90 passes last year for 1,158 yards and 13 TDs ...

Colorado will be trying to break a 17-game road losing streak when it plays at Hawaii Saturday ...

Stanford's new coach David Shaw, played for the Cardinal in 1991-94 and his father, Willie, is a former Stanford assistant ...

Oregon is led by running back Heisman Trophy candidate LaMichael James, who made his first-ever start against Utah in 2009, rushing for 152 yards and a touchdown ...

Washington hasn't won a season-opener since 2007 against Syracuse ...

UCLA's Johnathan Franklin will try to become the seventh Bruin player to run for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive years after rushing for 1,127 last year ...

Washington State wide receiver Jared Karstetter is one of two Pac-12 players along with Utah's Tony Bergstrom among 30 candidates for the 2011 Lowe's Senior CLASS award ...

email: sor@desnews.com

Pac-12 ball to be donated to 9/11 Memorial

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — In recognition of the first-ever Pac-12 football game and the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the Pac-12 has created a commemorative painted game ball that will be signed by every head coach and donated to the 9/11 Memorial (www.911memorial.org).

USC will host Utah in the first conference football game in Pac-12 history on September 10 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

The commemorative ball departed August 30 on a 12-day journey throughout the Conference, stopping on each head coach's desk for an autograph before moving on to the next school. The two-week trek began in Oregon and will culminate in Los Angeles.

The ball will be presented to Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott at midfield during pregame festivities Saturday, September 10.

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