LOS ANGELES (ABC4 Sports) – The expectations are off the charts one again for the Utah football team.
The Utes were picked to win their second straight conference championship at Pac-12 Media Day in Los Angeles, and the team is embracing these high expectations.
“We definitely do have that target on our back,” said quarterback Cam Rising. “It’s still the same type of feeling. We’ve got to go out there and attack each and every day and make sure we’re putting our best foot forward se we can repeat.”
“We tell our team that it’s harder to stay on top than it is to get the top,” said head coach Kyle Whttingham, about to begin his 18th season at the helm. “So we’ve got a big challenge in front of us. We’re not going to sneak up on anybody. So we’ve got to maintain that same blue collar mentality and same work ethic. Everything that got us here has got to be done even better.”
“We’re going into it knowing that we’re the game that everyone is circling now,” added defensive back Clark Phillips III. “For us, we’ve got to circle every game because we don’t want to slip up.
This year, Utah’s goal isn’t just to get to the Rose Bowl, but to get to the College Football Playoff.
“It’s something we’ve worked our butt off to get to,” Phillips said. “We’re trying to get to the College Football Playoff. Our biggest goal is we want to win it all. Last year, winning it all was the Pac-12 championship. Now, we know we’ve got the target on our back and we want to do that again, and more.”
The Utes definitely have the talent and experience to make a deep run. 17 starters are back who have played in the biggest of games.
“I think the experience factor is going to separate us from other teams,” Phillips said. “You think about the Rose Bowl, even though it didn’t go the way that we wanted, guys that were apart of that are definitely going to have some tougher skin than guys that didn’t get to play against that caliber of teams.”
It all starts with quarterback Cam Rising, who led the Utes to a 9-2 record after taking over the starting job last year. Rising has kind of become a local celebrity around town.
“Yeah, I’ll get recognized a little bit, having people stare at me,” he said. “I’m pretty laid back though. I’ve stayed indoors mostly because of that. But it’s always fun to interact with the fans.”
“He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever around,” Whittingham said. “He is the leader of the leaders. He’s obviously a big talent on the field. We’ve got a lot of pieces of the puzzle. I think the big key will be making plays on the outside. I think that’s got to become more prevalent for us in the passing game. But if we can do that, we can be really explosive.”
It all starts September 3rd at Florida.