LOS ANGELES (ABC4 Sports) – The Utes football team has set the standard in the Pac-12. With 17 starters back, Utah was picked to win its second straight conference championship, and the rest of the league knows the Utes have arrived.

“I’d say that being the Pac-12 champions, everyone wants to beat them,” said Colorado offensive lineman Casey Roddick at Pac-12 Media Day. “Everyone wants that claim to fame.”

“Utah, all credit to them, they’re a great team,” added Stanford defensive back Kye Blu Kelly. “They deserved to go to the Pac-12 Championship and compete the Rose Bowl. I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys. They kind of took our mentality. They play very physical, very tough, hard-nosed football. We try to pride ourselves on that, so you can only respect that.”

USC may be Utah’s biggest obstacle to winning another Pac-12 title, and their new head coach Lincoln Riley knows what he’s up against.

“I know Cam Rising,” Riley said about the Utes quarterback. “He was committed to me for a little bit at Oklahoma. so it’s been fun following his career. It’s a tremendous program. I know it has a really good fan base, a strong support system. They obviously had a great year last year and look to have a very strong team coming up.”

“I’ve watched them a couple times, and I think they’re a great team,” said USC linebacker Shane Lee, a transfer from Alabama. “They have great players and have obviously had a whole bunch of success.”

Oregon is also a contender to win the conference title. The Ducks are still stinging from the loss to the Utes in the Pac-12 title game in December, and they are hoping to get another shot in the championship this year.

“They played us really well last year,” said Oregon offensive lineman Alex Forsyth. “They beat us twice and that hurt. But they’re always a great team to play and are really well coached. I’ve got a ton of respect for that program. They play football the right way.”

So what about making the College Football Playoff? Do the Utes have enough talent to go that far?

“If I were them, that’s something that they should have in the back of their mind,” said Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell. “Because of the returners they have back, they have a returning starting quarterback, they’ve got a number of players defensively and offensively that are back. So there’s no doubt in my mind.”

Utah kicks off the 2022 season September 3rd at Florida.