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The 2022 college football season is just over the horizon but the months leading up to it have had no shortage of drama. While the usual din surrounding the recruiting wars continued through the summer doldrums, the prospect of the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten has shaken the very foundations of the collegiate sports world.
Interestingly, the Florida Gators will face one of the West Coast conference’s schools, the Utah Utes, to open their schedule in the Swamp on Sept. 3. While the visitors are expected to arrive in Gainesville as a top-10 team, there are greater implications to the matchup in Gainesville.
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham offered the following during Pac-12’s football media days recently in regards to the importance of his season opener on the other side of the country.
“That’s very important. Every game obviously is important. But when you have a chance to go down to SEC country, play a storied program like Florida with their history, a tradition, in a place like the Swamp, that’s a challenge for our guys. It’s important for the Pac-12 to make noise on the national scene whenever we get opportunities like that. There’s several other teams in the league that are going to have similar opportunities. We have to make the most of it. If you want to gain respect, gain national attention, you got to come out and win some of those games. Hopefully, we can go down there and play like we’re capable of.”
Respect. That is what the Southeastern Conference continues to demand and even a Gators squad that has been on the downswing still represents a formidable foe for non-conference opponents. The Pac-12 is imperiled by a rapidly changing landscape in collegiate athletics and showing up on the big stage against a marquee opponent could send a message reverberating through the nation.
However, if Florida flops this season it quickly becomes a moot issue. Of course, bridges are meant to be crossed when they are reached and there are still plenty of games to be played before that point.
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