SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A sellout crowd is expected to be in attendance for what could be the University of Utah football program’s biggest game of the 2021 season. Ten games into a roller-coaster season, a win over No. 3-ranked Oregon on Saturday would lift the Utes to an 8-3 mark and likely be one of the most memorable home wins in the program’s history.
That’s not an understatement, and there are a number of reasons why. Here is a rundown of why Saturday’s matchup at Rice-Eccles Stadium, which will be broadcast on ABC4, matters:
What’s at stake:
For one, a victory over one of the highest-ranked teams in the country would mark just the second time in school history that a top-five team left Rice-Eccles Stadium winless. The other instance came in 2013 when unranked Utah toppled No. 5 Stanford, 27-21. If you’re doing the math at home, that means a win over the No. 3-ranked Ducks would be the biggest home win ever for the Utes against a ranked opponent.
If the No. 23 Utes can pull it off, the crimson-clad fanatics will undoubtedly rush the field as the clock strikes zero. Should that happen, it is not hard to imagine that head coach Kyle Whittingham will be hoisted on their shoulders.
He’ll deserve it.
Not only would Whittingham have captured an enormous victory on Saturday, but he will also have etched his name in the annals of school history as the all-time winningest coach, passing Ike Armstong’s mark of 141 victories over an incredible 24 years at the helm. Whittingham will have passed the mark in his 17th season.
A victory would also seal Utah’s fate as Pac-12 South Division champions, which would send them to the conference title game on Dec. 3 in Las Vegas, where they would play Oregon once again with a guaranteed invitation to the Rose Bowl on the line.
Would it really be an upset though?
Utah has been cruising the last month or so, as winners of the last 3 games. The Utes were especially dominant two weeks ago against Stanford in a 52-7 smashing of the Cardinal in Palo Alto.
Oregon has just one loss on their record, though, to Stanford in a 31-24 overtime defeat on Oct. 2. The Ducks have not had particularly glamorous wins since and perhaps for that reason, in addition to the fact that Utah dismantled the team that beat them in October, as well as the fact that Saturday’s game will hand the Utes the home-field advantage, the oddsmakers in Las Vegas are giving Utah the edge.
The Utes are favored by three points, despite the fact that Oregon is ranked 20 spots ahead of them in the College Football Playoff Rankings.
Going to the game? Keep these things in mind:
The game is scheduled to kick off in front of a nationally televised audience at 5:30 p.m. The gates to the stadium will be opened two hours prior and for that first hour, all stadium-operated concessions will be selling at 30% off.
But leave the dead presidents at home, the whole stadium is cashless for concessions.
Getting up the hill and to the stadium can be tricky though, with limited parking in the lot in front. Many fans rely on public transportation to get to the game. One of the most fun – and hectic – ways to get to Rice-Eccles is to catch the TRAX red line. However, if you don’t hop on the train at the first stop on the route, near the courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City, getting on will be almost impossible. To get back to the courthouse after the game, UTA will provide a bus service since the TRAX will be extremely crowded.
If you’re looking to score a ticket to get the big game, be prepared to pay through the nose on the secondary market. The university is expecting a sellout crowd for the 69th straight game. If you do have a ticket to the game, don’t forget about the stadium’s clear bag policy to get in with your belongings.
Masks are not required but recommended.
Whoa! What about those sweet uniforms Utah is wearing?
College football fans will know that the Oregon Ducks have a reputation for having some of the most outlandish uniforms in the sport. Utah, however, will give them a run for their money on Saturday.
The Utes will be dressed in a specially designed Military Appreciation uniform to commemorate the USS Salt Lake City, one of the most legendary vessels used in the Pacific during World War II.
The all-grey jerseys themselves, honoring the ship’s legacy as the ‘One Ship Fleet,’ are cool enough, but the highlight of the outfit may be the hand-painted helmets. All 150 Utah helmets were worked on for over a year by a Nebraska-based airbrush artist from his home in the heartland of America.
For those who are planning on staying home and watching the game from the comfort of their couches, look no further than ABC4 for the television broadcast. The game will kick off at 5:30 p.m.