Kragthorpe: Bowl season affects views of Utah, BYU, USU
College football's 24-day bowl season is not over yet or have you forgotten about the GoDaddy.com Bowl? but there's enough evidence to judge how the performances of other teams affect everybody's views of Utah, BYU and Utah State.
• The Pac-12 scheduling rotation that matches Utah against Stanford and Oregon next season for the first time as conference rivals creates a significant upgrade. We all knew that, but it was reinforced this week. The conference's six bowl-eligible teams that beat the Utes in 2012 went 2-4 in postseason play (wins by Arizona State and Arizona; losses by Washington, UCLA, Oregon State and USC), while Stanford and Oregon won BCS games.
Oregon is likely to lose coach Chip Kelly to the NFL, but the Ducks will remain a notch above everybody else in the Pac-12 except Stanford.
• It's dangerous to gauge any program by a one-game performance, but I'll eat some words about Fresno State being comparable to BYU as a replacement on Utah's schedules in 2014 and '15. The Bulldogs were blasted 43-10 by SMU in the Hawaii Bowl. So maybe Fresno State offers a bit of a break to Utah, after all.
• The curse of Utah State football is officially lifted. The Aggies lost coach Gary Andersen to Wisconsin after their Famous Idaho Potato Bowl win completed an 11-2 season, but his promotion is a compliment to USU's program. Meanwhile, former USU coach Brent Guy posted a Liberty Bowl victory as Tulsa's defensive coordinator and Kent Baer, a former USU player and assistant coach, won the Military Bowl as San Jose State's interim coach (he's headed to Colorado as defensive coordinator). Two of Mick Dennehy's former Aggie assistants, Dave Kotulski and Lance Anderson, helped coach Stanford's defense in the Rose Bowl victory.
• There should not be too much celebrating in Cache Valley regarding Boise State's return to the Mountain West, however. The Broncos will provide more credibility and financial impact to the other conference members, but there's also the little detail of having to compete against them. Andersen caught a break in a two-year window of playing in a league without Boise State. USU may have challenged the Broncos in 2012, but keeping up with them on an annual basis is asking a lot.
• Depending on the outcome of an overhaul of the offensive coaching staff, BYU could end up having a satisfying bowl season. The Cougars have kept receiver Cody Hoffman and linebacker Kyle Van Noy, the offensive and defensive MVPs of the Poinsettia Bowl, from entering the NFL draft. Georgia Tech's victory over USC in the Sun Bowl adds credibility to BYU's best showing of the season, and Notre Dame could further help BYU's image with a strong performance against Alabama in the BCS championship game.
The remaining issue is how coach Bronco Mendenhall will reconfigure his offensive staff. Longtime assistant Lance Reynolds has retired, and his departure certainly won't be the only personnel change.