NCAA Football: Utah at UCLA

No. 22 UCLA and No. 11 Utah will be meeting in their last conference opener as member of the Pac-12 on Saturday when the Bruins head to Salt Lake City for a clash with the Utes on Saturday. Both teams roll into this Pac-12 showdown that carries significant conference title implications with 3-0 records after nonconference play to begin the 2023 season. 

The Bruins have been relatively untested in the early part of the season. UCLA is coming off a 59-7 win over NC Central in which most of the starters were pulled early in the first half. The Bruins played three different quarterbacks and star freshman Dante Moore only played in three drives. 

It's been a different story for Utah, which is fresh off a 31-7 victory over FCS Weber State. The Utes have been without star quarterback Cam Rising and tight end Brant Kuithe so far this year. Rising tore his ACL at the start of the calendar year during the Rose Bowl loss to Penn State. Kuithe tore his ACL on Sept. 24, 2022. The Utes were hoping to get both players back on the field at the start of the season, but the two offensive stars have seen their return date pushed back as they continue to rehab their respective injuries. We likely won't know either player's status for this game until shortly before kickoff. 

Despite missing key pieces, the Utes have managed to navigate a tough nonconference schedule. They knocked off Florida 24-11 to start the year, then picked up a 20-13 road victory over Baylor in Week 2. After a pair of power conference tests, they got a bit of a break last week in a 31-7 victory over FCS Webber State. 

How to watch UCLA vs. Utah

Date: Saturday, Sept. 23  | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Rice-Eccles Stadium -- Salt Lake City
TV: Fox | Live stream: fubo (Try for free)

UCLA vs. Utah: Need to know

Status for Utah's stars is still TBD: Will Rising and/or Kuithe return? Signs trend to yes heading into the weekend. Even if Rising is only at 90%, he is still far and away the best quarterback on the Utes roster. His mobility would be a valuable weapon against a stout UCLA defense that ranks near the top of the Pac-12. If Rising can't go, Utah will rely on the duo of Nate Johnson and Bryson Barnes to carry the weight on offense. Every week Rising doesn't return, it decreases the chances of a three-peat.

Big opportunity for Moore: UCLA coach Chip Kelly won't say it publicly, but Moore looks like the team's starter at quarterback going forward. Veteran signal caller Ethan Garbers got the start in Week 1 but Moore took over in the second half and looked sharp. The true freshman has completed 62.7% of his passes for 615 yards with seven touchdowns and only one interception. This will be the biggest test of his early career and it will come on the road. If the No. 4 overall player from the 2023 recruiting class plays well, it would be a major confidence builder going forward.

UCLA's biggest test of the season: Coastal Carolina and San Diego State offered a good tune up ahead of conference play, but Utah will be the first hostile environment the team has faced this season. UCLA has one of the most favorable schedules in the Pac-12 and a win could open the door for a potential title run.

UCLA vs. Utah prediction, picks

Odds via SportsLine consensus

Utah has been tested with tougher matchups than UCLA so far this season. That's a fact. Yet, this still seems like a very winnable game for UCLA. Rising's status is still up in the air and without him Utah simply isn't the same team. Moore will get a chance to prove his meddle against one of the country's most consistent defenses over the past few years.  Pick: UCLA +4.5

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Dennis Dodd
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Tom Fornelli
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Chip Patterson
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Barrett Sallee
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Shehan Jeyarajah
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David Cobb
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Jerry Palm
Utah -4.5

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