Utah State was denied a chance to play for the first Western Athletic Conference football championship, but the Aggies will take the last one.
USU’s title comes in the 51st season of the WAC, which will not sponsor football next year, when USU moves to the Mountain West. The Aggies were left out when BYU, Utah and other schools founded the WAC in 1962. In May, I wrote, “All these years after being so bitter when the conference was created, Utah State is positioned to become the last WAC champion.”
USU has clinched a tie for the title and can win it outright by beating Idaho Saturday in Logan.
My forecasts for Utah and BYU were less accurate.
Since January, I’ve said the Utes and Cougars each would go into the bowl season with an 8-4 record. Instead, unless something bizarre occurs, they’ll be 5-7 and 7-5.
The crazy thing about Utah’s season is that even with only three Pac-12 wins (counting Friday’s game at Colorado), the Utes could have reached 6-6 and earned a bowl bid if they had beaten USU instead of losing in overtime.
That eight-win prediction looks silly now, but it was reasonable at the time. There were questions about how much Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA could improve in their coaches’ first seasons and it seemed fair to say that if the Utes could win four Pac-12 games with Jon Hays at quarterback, they could win five with Jordan Wynn.
The problem with that theory, of course, was the assumption Wynn would stay healthy. And those other South division teams improved.
BYU easily could have reached the eight-win mark. It is more of an indictment than a compliment to say the Cougars could have gone 10-2. Saturday’s 20-14 loss at San Jose State was the latest example of a game that got away from the Cougars. At least the Poinsettia Bowl will offer them a chance to salvage something.
As for USU, the WAC title obviously was a realistic prediction. But who would have guessed the Aggies would be in the Top 25, in a position to look beyond the WAC-affiliated Famous Idaho Potato Bowl?
I’ll be surprised if any better opportunity is available to USU. There would be nothing wrong with beating a decent Mid-American Conference team in Boise and finishing 11-2 with a Top 25 ranking.