Utah was recently picked by the league’s media as the favorite to claim the 2022 Pac-12 championship. A year after winning the program’s first Pac-12 title, Utah looks poised to repeat behind a punishing run game, a consistent defense, and a star quarterback in Cameron Rising.

The league’s media is not alone in placing Utah atop the standings to kick off the year.

“This is the best program in the Pac-12,” an anonymous Pac-12 coach told Athlon Sports. “I don’t think you’ll find anyone who would name another team. They could beat Florida to open the season and help the league out tremendously.”

Considering most football coaches want to be as vanilla as possible when speaking to the media, it’s hard to get honest assessments from coaches about their peers when a camera is on them and a mic in front of them. So Athlon Sports granted league coaches anonymity to freely dish on each Pac-12 team ahead of the new season.

Here’s what coaches had to say about Utah:

“They do a fantastic job recruiting to their culture, and they always have. They have cornered the market on what ‘physical football’ looks like, and coaches from other conferences will tell you that, too. Look at the Oregon games — Mario Cristobal made it a mission to make Oregon more physical on the lines, and the Utes just blew them up twice. It’s a testament to the fact it’s not easy to do what they do out there.”

“They do a really good job making Utah a recruiting priority and then complementing with California and Texas. It’s a good mix of players, and the success they had last year has helped them push forward on higher-profile talent. I think they could brand themselves better in the portal if they wanted to.”

“They’re schematically simple but fundamentally sound on defense, which is common when you’re trying to lead with your physicality. Don’t muck it up; let them make contact.”

“Offensively, they run power with the right wrinkles. You can’t get too comfortable with it because they’ll slip into some RPO stuff and kill you.”

“They’re going to get lapped by USC eventually, but not right now. As long as that staff is in place, they’re going to win games and compete for Rose Bowls.”

Hey, in two years, Utah won’t have to worry about USC anymore! The Trojans will be Michigan’s problem.

Until then, USC absolutely has to worry about the Utes.

The defending league champs host the Trojans on Oct. 15 in what appears to be an early candidate for the Pac-12’s game of the year. The Utes are coming off a 10-4 season and a Rose Bowl berth.

Like several coaches said above, the formula doesn’t change. Tavion Thomas and Rising returning to the backfield, with plenty of continuity in the coaching staff, should let Utah have another efficient offense. Utah reloads on defense thanks to its developmental chops. Utah looks to have what it needs to contend again.

The season gets rolling on Sept. 3 in Gainesville, Florida, against the Gators.