Outside of the Pac-12 footprint, Utah is getting little respect as a College Football Playoff contender.

The Utes went 10-4 last season, won the Pac-12 with a 38-10 thrashing of the Oregon Ducks in the league’s title game, and then nearly took down the Ohio State Buckeyes in a Rose Bowl for the ages. Prior to that bowl game, Utah had won nine of its previous 10 games, coinciding with a change at quarterback.

Cameron Rising changed the team and the season for the Utes. And he’s part of a group of stars that returns in 2022 with eyes on bigger prizes. But Utah was given only a 4.9% chance to make the CFP by ESPN’s newly updated FPI projections.

Texas (21% chance) and Pittsburgh (10.2% chance) are viewed as bigger threats to earn one of the four spots to the CFP. Even among Pac-12 teams, Oregon and USC are popular teams given new head coaches at both spots. When USC hired Lincoln Riley and then secured a transfer commitment from former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams, it was immediately dubbed a CFP darkhorse.

Some, however, don’t think the Utes should be glossed over. Even USC’s own Pete Arbogast, the voice of the Trojans since 1989, thinks the Utes should be viewed as the likely Pac-12 champion. But his praise for coach Kyle Whittingham’s program didn’t stop there in a recent radio interview on KSL Sports in Salt Lake City.

“To me, [Utah is the] odds on favorite to win it again,” he told UnRivaled show hosts Alex Kirry and Scott Mitchell. “Virtually everybody’s back from that Rose Bowl team that should have won the game. They should be the Pac-12 Champions and they should be a national title contender or a playoff contender.”

https://twitter.com/KSLunrivaled/status/1514410389097746435?s=20&t=HWTO-1eClOLa6I47fQk_Yg

The Utes open the season on the road against Florida on Sept. 3. They’ll play the Trojans on Oct. 15, a game Arbogast thinks could potentially pit undefeated sides against each other and be “a better game than people think it’s going to be.”