The excitement of the Pac-12 is what appealed to fans when Utah received its invitation to join one of the best leagues in the country a few years ago.
It was the thought of playing games that mattered every week. The feeling of regularly being on national television and the exposure of big-time college football. It was all a dream.
Now, it's a reality. And a harsh one at that.
With Saturday night's matchup against Oregon State at Rice-Eccles Stadium out of the way, it will be a few months before the Utes play a game that could be definitively be counted as an easy win. There are home matchups against UCLA and Stanford. There are road games against USC and Oregon. Along the way, facing Arizona State and Arizona will be anything but easy. Of course, next week brings the rivalry matchup against BYU at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
"We knew it was going to be tough," Utah athletic director Chris Hill said. "We welcome this challenge. We knew how good the conference was that we were going to. We feel like we're ready to meet that challenge."
With a matchup against the Beavers, things could get difficult in a hurry. Nothing is set for a Utah team that found itself down big to Oregon State, only to fight back in the second half.
Stanford and Oregon are on the schedule for the Utes for the first time since their inclusion into the Pac-12. Both are among the elite teams in the country, with the Ducks emerging as one of the handful of teams truly capable of winning a national title.
USC has had its struggles, but the Trojans are still one of the more talented teams in the nation. Arizona State and Arizona are two teams with high-octane offenses who have proved to be problematic for Utah in the past.
Are the Utes ready? They are being given the full brunt of the schedule this year for the first time.
This is what they knew they were encountering. Now, they have to play the games and go through the gauntlet.