Kickoff: Saturday, September 9th 11:00 AM CT
Location: McLane Stadium (Waco, TX)
Head Coach: Kyle Whittingham (entering 19th season)
Last Year’s Record: 10-4
Notable Outcomes: Lost to Florida, 29-26; Beat USC 43-42 and 47-24; Lost to Penn State, 35-21
Key Losses: Clark Phillips III, CB; Clayton Isbell, S; Dalton Kincaid, TE
Key Returners: Cameron Rising, QB; Devaughn Vele, WR; Cole Bishop, SS
Strength: Quarterback. Utah returns one of the more dynamic quarterbacks in the country in Cameron Rising. Rising accounted for 26 touchdowns and 3,034 yards while only throwing eight interceptions. The only question mark for him will be his recovery from an ACL injury he suffered in Utah’s Rose Bowl game against Penn State.
Weakness: Running back. Utah lost their top running back from last season, Tavion Thomas. Their top returning running back, Micah Bernard, had 533 yards and four touchdowns. But, depending on where you look, Bernard is either listed as the second or third string behind Ja’Quinden Jackson and Jaylon Glover. So, there are certainly question marks at the position. However, this is also a possible indication that the running backs room will be quite solid. Time will tell, but for a team that’s coming off a Rose Bowl berth and looking for another signature season, there aren’t many glaring weaknesses.
Way Too Early Prediction: This is a tough game to gauge. For one, it remains to be seen how fully recovered or not Rising will be by the second game of the season (especially after Utah opens against Florida). If Rising looks good to go, I’m not super optimistic about this one for Baylor. If Rising is out or less than 100%, then I start leaning into Baylor’s homefield advantage in the September Texas heat. And while Utah is certainly projected to be in the hunt for another Pac-12 championship this season, we have personally seen how high pre-season expectations can slip away. So I’ve got Utah winning this one, but a Baylor victory wouldn’t shock me and would go a long way toward 2023 trending in the right direction for the Bears.