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Utah football vs. BYU: Time, TV schedule, game preview, score

Utes battle Cougars

The Utah Utes walk to the field before Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl against the West Virginia Mountaineers on December 26, 2017 at Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – Utah kicks off a season of lofty expectations Thursday night with a non-conference rivalry game at Brigham Young. The 15th-ranked Utes have been voted as the preseason media favorite not only to repeat as Pac-12 South Division champs but to capture their first Pac-12 overall title as well.

TV: 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Utah -5

Despite some key late-season injuries last fall, Utah finished atop the South standings for the first time since entering the Pac-12 in 2011 and wound up dropping a hard-fought defensive 10-3 decision to Washington in the Pac-12 Championship Game. At the Pac-12 media gathering in July, the Utes garnered 33 of the 35 first-place votes in the South and edged the North's Oregon (11 votes) and Washington (nine) with 12 votes as the projected conference title game winner. "We started these discussions with our players (about dealing with preseason expectations) two or three months ago because we felt like we were going to have some preseason hype and that type of thing," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said during his media-day news conference. "And we wanted to make sure that we got out ahead of it and talked to our players about just ignoring the noise and just staying focused." BYU, entering its 10th consecutive season as an independent, also has high hopes in 2019 after bouncing back from a 4-9 finish in 2017 to finish 7-6 with a 49-18 rout of Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

ABOUT UTAH (2018: 9-5)

Quarterback Tyler Huntley and tailback Zack Moss, a pair of seniors, are back at full strength for the Utes after missing the Pac-12 title game and Holiday Bowl with a broken collarbone and knee injury, respectively. Moss, one of Utah's five preseason All-Pac 12 selections, is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons while the dual-threat Huntley has averaged 265.3 yards of total offense per game over the last two seasons. On the other side of the ball, Utah boasts one of the nation's top defensive lines, led by All-Pac 12 preseason selections Bradlee Anae, Leki Fotu and John Penisini while preseason All-Pac 12 first-team selections Julian Blackmon and Jaylon Johnson lead a talented secondary.

ABOUT BYU (2018: 7-6)

Head coach Kalani Sitake is back for his fourth season, and his offense will be led by sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson, who started the final seven games last season, including a perfect 18-for-18, 307-yard, four-TD performance in the Potato Bowl. Leading rusher Lopini Katoa (423 yards, eight TDs) also returns while junior tight end Matt Bushman and senior wide receiver Aleva Hifo headline a pass-catching corps after combining for 57 receptions, 868 yards and four TDs a year ago. The secondary looks to be the strength of the defense with cornerback Chris Wilcox and safeties Dayan Ghanwoloku and Austin Lee returning after combining for 31 starts in 2018.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Utah holds a 61-34-4 all-time edge and has notched 20-19, 19-13 and 35-27 wins since the regular-season series resumed in 2016. The Utes rallied from a 27-7 late third quarter deficit to post the 35-27 victory last Nov. 24.

2. The two teams met in the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl (a 35-28 Utah win), but this will be the first time the Holy War will be contested in the opening week of the season.

3. BYU is the only school in the nation to open its season with four straight games against Power Five competition as the Cougars will face Tennessee, USC and Washington after opening against the Utes.

PREDICTION: Utah 24, BYU 16

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