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Looking at Utah Football's Future Out of Conference Opponents

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

When Utah fans heard a couple months ago that Utah and Baylor had signed an agreement to play a home and home series, there seemed to be a sigh of relief among fans that the Utes were finally going back to Texas. Many great Utah players have come from the state of Texas, and Utah has been spending more time recruiting other states in the Pac-12 footprint. Fans however, have to wait a while, as these games will be played eight and nine years down the road. A home and home series with a school like Baylor is a huge get for Dr. Chris Hill, and it adds excitement and anticipation as he fills out the future schedules for Utah football.

Baylor seems to be a good and logical choice to schedule a series with. If Utah would have scheduled this game ten years ago, fans may have questioned the move. Often times people wonder why teams are scheduled, and some may think that BYU, Utah State, and Weber State should be the three out of conference teams Utah plays every year. Just as they did just that in 2013. For recruiting purposes, however, that makes almost no sense. There is a lot of talent in Utah's high schools, but realistically, Utah needs to play games elsewhere to showcase their team, and to let families of players they recruit in those areas, they will play close to home.

Utah has a conference game built into their schedule in Southern California and Arizona every year. That is a great recruiting tool for those areas, to have the ability to promise parents that they will see their son play every year in that area. With Pac-12 north teams, however, Utah skips the bay area every other year, and will play in Oregon or Washington. With those games set, that turns Utah's attention to whom they will schedule, and how it will help them in recruiting.

Utah will play an FCS team to almost guarantee a win, although this season is an exception. Playing home and home with Michigan is awesome for exposure, it puts Utah one a lot more TV screens. It may also help open some doors in Big 10 country for kids who may not be used to watching Utah.

Some may question the decision to play Fresno State home and home, but it was scheduled solely to put Utah in Northern California the off year they are playing aren't Cal/Stanford at home. It is different with their future games in 2016-2017 with San Jose State. They will be playing Cal and the Spartans in California the same year, and then play Stanford and San Jose State in Salt Lake City the following year. It is still one more game in California.

A head scratcher for some people was the home and home with Northern Illinois. Only days after NIU signed home and home series with Maryland and BYU. So why NIU? They are located in DaKalb, IL, which is an hour outside of Chicago. Utah may have been looking for games versus Northwestern or Illinois, but the next best thing would be a school like NIU. Still in Big 10 country, even if the game is not against a Big 10 team.

Utah has some holes to fill in their schedule in 2019 and beyond. Everyone would like to see Utah play a home and home with Ohio St, but that probably won't happen. Utah's days of 2 for 1 and one off road games are done. It seems Utah is realizing that finishing second in recruiting to schools in California that they need to spread their recruiting out, and go to places like Louisiana and Florida. One would expect that if Utah could schedule games against teams like Florida, Florida State, and Miami, they would. Those teams would love Utah to come to the Sunshine State, but may be hesitant to play outside of the south. More that likely, though, Utah would have a better chance to get a series from South Florida, or Central Florida, respectable teams, and another opportunity to get a game in Florida.

Utah should also look at Texas schools. In the early 2000's Utah had a 2 for 1 with Texas scheduled, before both schools decided to nix the deal. Texas could be a possibility, Texas A&M being an SEC school probably not, but certainly TCU would be a fun series. With Baylor already scheduled, Utah could look to teams like Houston, Rice, or SMU as options for home and home games. It only makes sense that Utah tries to play in Texas as much as they can to keep that recruiting pipeline open, and playing games there would go a long way in accomplishing that.

The opening game of 2015 will be exciting with Michigan coming to Rice-Eccles Stadium. Fans could have never dreamed this would happen. If Michigan can sign a home and home, it opens a lot of possibilities of teams that could do the same. It will be exciting to see in the coming years who, along with Michigan and Baylor, will make the trek to the top of the mountains to play the Utes.