Utah football debuts with its highest preseason ranking ever, BYU at No. 25

The Utes were ranked No. 8 in the inaugural AFCA Coaches Poll last week.

(Hunter Dyke | Utah Athletics) Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham talks to his team during football practice in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.

The University of Utah opens the season Sept. 3 at the University of Florida ranked in the top 10 of both national polls.

The Utes, 10-4 overall and first-time Pac-12 champions last season, debuted in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 Monday morning at No. 7. This is the sixth time Utah has been ranked in the preseason by the AP, which has produced a preseason poll since 1950 .

The AP ranking is coming a week after Utah appeared at No. 8 in the inaugural AFCA Coaches Poll. At the time, No. 8 was the highest preseason ranking in program history.

Oregon checked in Monday at No. 11, while USC was No. 14. Utah will host the Trojans at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Oct. 15, then travel to Eugene to face the Ducks on Nov. 19.

Meanwhile, BYU snuck in at No. 25 in the AP Poll after being left out of the Coaches Poll. The Cougars are the third incoming Big 12 member to be ranked, following Cincinnati (No. 23) and Houston (No. 24). The Cougars will begin Big 12 play in 2023.

BYU’s home opener, Baylor, checked in at No. 10 in the AP Poll. The following week, BYU will be on the road against the aforementioned Ducks.

Four of BYU’s opponents start the season ranked. Notre Dame, which BYU will play in Las Vegas on Oct. 8, is ranked No. 5 in both the Coaches and AP Poll. Arkansas is ranked No. 19 after being No. 21 in the inaugural Coaches Poll.

Utah State, BYU’s Week 5 game, received two votes.

QB2 still TBD

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said several times over the past two weeks that he hoped to have his backup quarterback settled after the first scrimmage.

That timeline has been extended as Whittingham was not ready to choose between Bryson Barnes and Ja’Quinden Jackson on Monday. That camp competition will now drag into the weekend, when the Utes will battle for the second and final time.

“They both had outstanding scrimmages and they’re the two guys that compete, it’s up to them exclusively for the No. 2 guy,” Whittingham said. “We’ll have an answer coming out of the next scrimmage, exactly how we’re going to approach it.”

Added offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig: “Still grinding through it, both of those guys compete really hard and we’re in a good situation right now. We would like to make a formal decision probably after the next game and give these guys another week to work.”

Eight offensive linemen in the mix after the first scrimmage

After Utah played for the first time Saturday, offensive line coach Jim Harding said Monday afternoon that he believes he has eight players he will go into the season with, barring injuries.

Harding suggested the right tackle job remains between Jaren Kump and Falcon Kaumatale. Kump, who is coming off season-ending knee surgery, is believed to be the favorite, although Harding pointed out that Kump is rusty, having practiced just 10 times in the last 10 months.

“The 10 practices have been since we came back,” Harding said on a Zoom call. “After being injured at the end of September, and certainly through spring training, he did footwork in the back and did everything he could.

“There was absolutely no mistake on his part, but the point is he’s still only trained 10 days. The kid has an extremely high care factor, a good work ethic. He’s in the top eight, he’s pushing for the top five.”

Another undetermined location is downtown where the Utes are monitoring a Paul Maile-Johnny Maea matchup, per Harding.

It suggests that seven of the top eight are Braeden Daniels, Keaton Bills, Sataoa Laumea, Kump, Kaumatule, Maile and Maea. Daniels, Bills (left guard) and Laumea (right guard) are all incumbent starters, though Daniels is switching from right tackle to left tackle.

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