Last year, when I asked this question, most Block U readers went for the USC game. It made sense, considering the Trojans were a preseason number one team. It was also at home and the first time the Trojans had ever come to Salt Lake City in our lifetime to play the Utes. It doesn't get much bigger than that and even though both Utah and USC fizzled a bit last season, the game proved every bit the enjoyment many of us expected back during that spring.
But what about this season? There certainly is going to be less buzz surrounding Utah football in 2013 compared to last year (a losing season will do that to you) and because of that, there doesn't appear to be a big-time game on the schedule - at least one that could define the season and propel the team to legitimate success (we all believed defeating USC at home would instantly put Utah in a good spot - not only in the Pac-12 South, but potentially nationally).
That doesn't mean there aren't important home games, though. Stanford is probably the biggest home opponent this season, and the Cardinal, who won the conference last season, will definitely be poised for a repeat performance. Playing a really good team, one that could be a true national title contender, helps pique all our interests, especially when the possibility of an upset becomes reality. But let's honest, Stanford is a great team and the likelihood of Utah winning that game right now is only slightly better than beating Oregon (I say this through the lens of last year's team and what I've seen in spring, I readily admit my view could change when actual college football is played).
So, it's hard for me to pick the Stanford game. Unlike USC last year, which I really did believe Utah had a strong chance of winning (and, all things considered, they played well enough at times to win that game), this game just seems too imposing for me to consider the most important or the one I'm most looking forward to. I'm not. That could change, as I said, with the season starting and Utah proving to be a bigger threat than I envision, but at the moment, I'm not lookin' at that game as a potential victory (though, definitely not a sure-loss, either).
Which is why I think Oregon State and Arizona State might prove the two games I'm looking forward to the most. I rank 'em together for two reasons - 1) beating the Beavers this season could prove a good measuring stick for the program and 2) I'm tired of losing to the Sun Devils. They're a decent program, and I think they're well coached, but the distance between where they're at and where Utah should be isn't as large as it appears. They're a solid Pac-12 team, and I'm not questioning it, however, their two-year record is eerily similar to Utah's past two seasons. The only difference is their losing season (admittedly, it came with a bowl berth) happened in '11 and their 8-5 season happened last year. Flip those seasons, and the difference is just one game.
The Sun Devils shouldn't be this far ahead of Utah. You can excuse the talent gap somewhat, but the way they worked us last year is inexcusable and I'm looking for a bit of revenge. It doesn't hurt that they're a division rival and those games mean the most right now.
Beyond those two, I'm also interested in the Stanford game, even though I'm not expecting much, as well as the USC roadie and the home game against UCLA. In fact, I'd say that Bruin game should also prove important, since it's at home and, like ASU, they're a division rival. So, the schedule is certainly not light on 'big games'.
Then there is Utah State and BYU. They're both big in their own ways (USU for the opener, and the fact they beat Utah last season, BYU because they're, you know, BYU) ... but you'll notice my list consisted of Pac-12 games. There's a reason for that - these games are the most important. It doesn't mean you can't look at BYU as the game you're most looking forward to, or USU for that matter, it's just, from my perspective, after two 0-4 conference starts, I'd rather focus on actually winning in the Pac-12 than winning state bragging rights. Of course, ideally, we'll do both, and I actually think Utah has a fairly good chance of going 3-0 against instate competition this season, but the other games are of bigger magnitude and mean more, in the long run, than a loss in Provo.
So, what game are you most looking forward to and why? Oregon State? BYU? USC? Stanford...Utah State?