Comparing Utah’s 2023 football schedule to USC

The 2023 Pac-12 football schedule was released on Wednesday morning on the Pac-12 Network.

It will be the final year with USC and UCLA in the conference before the LA schools make the move to the Big Ten.

The Utah Utes are the back-to-back Pac-12 champions, and their schedule has some notable difficulties shared by USC and not shared by Oregon.

Can Utah three-peat in the Pac-12 with Cam Rising returning for one more year at quarterback?

Here is a look at the dates and opponents for Utah in 2023, including a trip to Southern California to face USC in a Pac-12 title game rematch on October 21, one week before they host the Oregon Ducks. That’s part of the profoundly rough road the Utes have:

AUGUST 31: VS FLORIDA

Sep 3, 2022; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) and Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) meet after a game at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Utah gets the back end of this home-and-home with Florida. Utes smartly moved this game up to a Thursday to provide more rest for the second game on their schedule below:

SEPTEMBER 9: AT BAYLOR

Nov 6, 2021; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears head coach Dave Aranda reacts during the second half against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Utah needs extra rest between Florida and Baylor. The Utes are definitely taking on all comers to sharpen themselves for Pac-12 play. The approach certainly worked in 2022.

SEPTEMBER 16: VS WEBER STATE

Sep 2, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes running back Tavion Thomas (9) dives in for a touchdown past Weber State Wildcats cornerback Eddie Heckard (5) and defensive end George Tarlas (44) in the fourth quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Utah plays two tough nonconference games, so there has to be a cupcake in the mix. This is it.

SEPTEMBER 23: VS UCLA

Nov 19, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) and tight end Hudson Habermehl (81) react after an iinterception against Southern California Trojans defensive end Korey Foreman (0) during the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

This is where the Pac-12 could have placed USC. The Trojans and Utes played in late September in 2016, and have played in September in other recent seasons. Not this year. Not this time. USC-Utah on Sept. 23, coming one week after Utah played Weber State, would have been reasonable for both parties. USC has an off week on Sept. 16, but Utah playing an FCS team is not that different from a week off, especially early in the season.

SEPTEMBER 29: AT OREGON STATE

Dec 17, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; The Oregon State Beavers celebrate with the Las Vegas Bowl trophy after defeating the Florida Gators 30-3 at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

This is brutal. Utah has to go on the road to a tough environment on a short week, one week after playing UCLA? If the Pac-12 wanted this game on a Friday, it should have had it one week after Utah played Weber State, not one week after UCLA.

Also, maybe this game could have been one week after Utah played Arizona or some other not-as-strong Pac-12 team. This is Larry Scott-style scheduling.

OCTOBER 14: VS CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS

Nov 5, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; California Golden Bears head coach Justin Wilcox reacts in the first half against the Southern California Trojans at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Utah has October 7 off. The Utes probably would have wanted a tough game here, coming off their rest break. Instead, it’s an easier game.

OCTOBER 21: AT USC

Dec 2, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) carries the ball against the Utah Utes in the second half of the Pac-12 Championship at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This is where USC gets uniquely disadvantaged: The Trojans play Notre Dame the week before Utah.

The Utes play Cal the week before USC. Advantage, Utah.

OCTOBER 28: VS OREGON

Oct 22, 2022; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Oregon Ducks wide receiver Troy Franklin (11) celebrates with quarterback Bo Nix (10) after catching a touchdown pass during the first half against the UCLA Bruins at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

This is where Oregon’s scheduling advantage shines through: The Ducks host Washington State the week before Utah.

The Utes visit USC the week before playing Oregon. Advantage, Ducks.

NOVEMBER 4: VS ARIZONA STATE

Nov 25, 2022; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils kicker Eddie Czaplicki (17) against the Arizona Wildcats during the Territorial Cup at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Utah gets a manageable opponent in early November, one week before a big game on Nov. 11.

USC does not get that same benefit. The Trojans play Washington on Nov. 4, one week before playing Oregon on Nov. 11.

NOVEMBER 11: AT WASHINGTON

Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) lines up the offense for a snap against Texas during the Alamo Bowl at the Alamodome, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022 in San Antonio.

Utah playing Arizona State one week before Washington should really help the Utes. Washington has to play USC one week before playing Utah.

This is one spot where Utah didn’t get a bad break, but having to play USC and Oregon in consecutive weeks is bad luck. So is playing at Oregon State on a short week after facing UCLA.

NOVEMBER 18: AT ARIZONA WILDCATS

Oct 1, 2022; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Arizona Wildcats quarterback Jayden de Laura (7) smiles after a play against the Colorado Buffaloes in the first half at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Utah does get to breathe a little bit toward the end of its schedule.

NOVEMBER 25: VS COLORADO

Nov 5, 2022; Boulder, Colorado, USA; Colorado Buffaloes wide receiver Jordyn Tyson (4) carries the ball for a touchdown past Oregon Ducks defensive back Steve Stephens IV (7) the second quarter at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Utah has been able to get a late-season punching bag by playing Colorado in late November. Not anymore. Not with Deion Sanders in Boulder.

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire