Schedule analysis: Utah

We're reviewing each Pac-12 team's schedule, now focusing on the South Division.

Up next: Utah

Breakdown: six home (five conference games), six road (four conference games)

Nonconference opponents (with 2010 records)

Sept. 1 Montana State (9-3)

Sept. 17 at BYU (7-6)

Oct. 15 at Pittsburgh (8-5)

South Division games

Sept. 10 at USC

Oct. 8 Arizona State

Nov. 5 at Arizona

Nov. 12 UCLA

Nov. 25 Colorado

Crossover games

Oct. 1 Washington

Oct. 22 at California

Oct. 29 Oregon State

Nov. 19 at Washington State

Conference misses



Key stretch: There's a general curiosity about Utah in the Pac-12. The Utes are a proven program, but that doesn't change the feeling that the grind of an AQ conference schedule will be a considerable challenge. We'll find out fairly quickly if they are up to that challenge in 2011, starting with a visit to USC the second weekend of the season and concluding with a home game with Arizona State on Oct. 8. At this point, the Sun Devils and the Trojans look like the best two South Division teams. Or is that the Utes? Also during that early stretch: A home game with Washington and a visit to traditional rival BYU that might feel a bit strange considering both programs' new circumstances (not to mention the timing of the game).

Trap game: The obvious one is the visit to Washington State on Nov. 19. It will be the Utes' eighth consecutive game without a weekend off, and the grind of a Pac-12 slate -- as well as two tough nonconference games -- might get to them. The visit to Pittsburgh the weekend after playing host to Arizona State could be pretty dangerous, too.

Sure thing: Little is certain with this schedule -- we just don't know Utah as a Pac-12 team -- other than the Utes heading to USC with a 1-0 record.

Analysis: While this is certainly not an easy schedule, the conference misses are the big story: No Oregon, no Stanford. The Ducks and Cardinal will start the year ranked in the top-10 and most see them as an either-or to win the first Pac-12 championship. That means a team that plays both, if we play the odds, should get two losses, while a team that plays neither gets a two-loss reprieve. Moreover, five home conference games should further help the Utes in the South standings, and the second half of the schedule is as forgiving as any in the conference. Welcome to the Pac-12, Utah! The timing of the bye is good -- Sept. 24 -- in that it will allow Utah to regroup after playing what figures to be a pair of emotional road games backk-to-back: at USC (first-ever Pac-12 game) and at BYU (a bitter rival). That said, nine consecutive weeks without a bye isn't easy. Still, this schedule sets up for the Utes to be in the South mix immediately, particularly if they reach November and are still contending.