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National Games to Watch: Week 1

NCAA Football: Penn State Spring Practice Mark Alberti-USA TODAY Sports

The Utes open the season ranked in the 24th spot to open the 2021 season, and a win against in-state FCS opponent Weber State could see the Utes move up thanks to some well-timed matchups.

#19 Penn State vs #12 Wisconsin - Saturday 10:00 AM MT - FOX

There’s no better way to kick off the first official football Saturday of the year than enjoying an early conference matchup between two ranked teams. The Nittany Lions were abysmal in 2020, losing five straight before bouncing back with four consecutive wins to close out the season. Senior receiver Jahan Dotson looks to be one of the best pass-catchers in the nation, but that won’t mean much if redshirt senior quarterback doesn’t improve under new offensive coordinator Mike Yurich. The Badgers lack an every-down running back, a hallmark of the program in recent years, but will be fielding what looks to be one of the most formidable defenses in the NCAA this year. A dominating Wisconsin win could knock Penn State out of the top 25 by week two and help Utah advance in the rankings early.

#23 Louisiana vs #21 Texas - Saturday 2:30 PM MT - FOX

#17 Indiana will be visiting #18 Iowa just one hour earlier on the Big 10 network, a matchup that could favor the Utes if either team wins convincingly, but a close game could keep the loser of this match still hanging right above Kyle Whittingham’s squad; however, Louisiana at Texas will undoubtedly help Utah move higher in the rankings. The Ragin’ Cajuns are enjoying their first pre-season AP ranking in school history, and a win against blue-chip Texas would certainly justify that. Still, head coach, Steve Sarkesian, will be looking to make his Texas debut a good one, especially if he hopes to be around when the Longhorns make their inevitable jump to the SEC.

BYU vs Arizona - Saturday 8:30 PM MT - ESPN

Yes, #5 Georgia vs #3 Clemson will be THE game of the week with playoff implications on the line for both teams; however, the outcome is unlikely to impact Utah’s standing in the national rankings. You should tune in to soak up all the college football you can in week one, and with a 5:30 PM kick-off, there’s plenty of time to enjoy the fireworks before switching over to the Cougars and Wildcats. This neutral site game will be played at the newly finished Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and will give Utah an idea of what to expect when they head into Provo in week two. The Cougars have potential, but a significantly tougher schedule and a loss of offensive production leave a lot of questions about how good BYU can be in 2021. Arizona is a consensus basement dweller in the PAC-12 South this season but should have enough talent to push BYU to gauge Utah’s most historic and bitter rival properly.

BONUS: #16 LSU vs UCLA - Saturday 6:30 PM - FOX

If you’re looking to get as much football as possible this week, keep your remote close by and picture-in-picture turned on. UCLA’s ground game was deadly against a vastly overmatched Hawaii in an early week zero matchup, but the passing game looked as lackluster as ever in the Chip Kelly era. A home matchup against an LSU team who struggled during the chaotic COVID riddled season that was 2020 is looking to bounce back after claiming a national title in 2019. This should be a good barometer for the Bruins, who could challenge Utah for the top spot in the PAC-12 South this year..