The Utah Utes will play their season opener Thursday evening against a Big Sky opponent for the fifth time in seven years when the North Dakota Fighting Hawks come to Salt Lake City.

The Fighting Hawks, who will be moving to the Missouri Valley Conference in 2020, enter the season with high expectations, as they have been picked to win the Big Sky in 2017.

North Dakota, which went 8-0 in conference play in 2016, is expected to be led by reigning Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year Cole Reyes (safety) and running back John Santiago. The pair was named to the Athlon Sports 2017 Preseason FCS All-America Team.

The Fighting Hawks also boast a senior quarterback in Keaton Studsrud, who was featured in the Grand Forks Herald earlier this month by beat writer Tom Miller.

Last Saturday, Miller broke down North Dakota’s two-deep depth chart, where he noted there is some uncertainty at left guard and punter for the Fighting Hawks.

Although not much was revealed, a portion of the Fighting Hawks’ practice was streamed via Facebook Live last Friday.

On Monday, Miller wrote briefly of the Big Sky connection new Utes offensive coordinator Troy Taylor has coming from Eastern Washington, although most of the piece is centered around previewing Utah.

On Tuesday, North Dakota reporter Jeff Kolpack tweeted that the Fighting Hawks will receive $450,000 for Thursday’s game.