Five things to think about, five weeks before the college football season openers:
The bowl curse • By winning 10 games in 2011, BYU defied the trend of New Mexico Bowl champions that followed those victories with disastrous seasons.
BYU rose above San Jose State, New Mexico, Colorado State and Wyoming, which posted a combined 15-33 record in the season after each team's New Mexico Bowl triumph. Yet the Cougars cannot escape the bowl's curse. Of the three freshmen offensive stars in that 52-24 win over Texas-El Paso, only receiver Cody Hoffman remains. Quarterback Jake Heaps is now at Kansas and running back Josh Quezada, who gained 101 yards on 15 carries that day, also is transferring.
We'll see how the curse affects Temple, the most recent New Mexico Bowl winner.
A different outcome • If two NCAA rules changes were in effect last season, Utah State would have beaten Auburn in an opener and BYU would have lost to Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl.
A new rule regarding onside kicks enforces the receiving team's rights until the ball bounces twice. The practice of drilling the ball into the ground off the tee and creating a high bounce as perfected by Auburn, trailing 38-35 with 2:07 remaining last September is basically obsolete, in an effort to reduce collisions.
So onside kicks will revert to a dribbling technique, which means I'm taking back everything I said about Utah's onside attempt with a 43-0 lead against Wyoming. The Utes used that kicking method (although unsuccessfully), so coach Kyle Whittingham obviously was five years ahead of his time.
And once a player loses his helmet, he must stop competing during the play or face a personal-foul penalty. That rule would have kept former BYU offensive tackle Matt Reynolds from making the celebrated block that gave quarterback Riley Nelson more time to find Hoffman with a touchdown pass with 12 seconds left in the first half and Tulsa leading 14-3.
A player losing his helmet also must sit out the next play.
Worth watching • There's no more intriguing team than Utah in college football.
Entering their second Pac-12 season, the Utes fit these descriptions: They won four conference games with a fill-in quarterback in 2011, while missing field goals that would have forced overtime against USC and Colorado. They also went 1-4 against Pac-12 teams that were willing to retain their coaches. So mix in the fact that three Pac-12 South programs (plus Washington State) have upgraded their staffs, and this season gets interesting.
"Do I look stupid?" • It took Bobby Petrino's motorcycle accident and John L. Smith's unchecked ambition, but one of those Pac-12 firings ultimately helped Jody Sears become Weber State's interim head coach.
Sears lost his job as Washington State's co-defensive coordinator and joined Smith in Ogden, then was promoted when Smith replaced Petrino on an interim basis at Arkansas. I'd love to see Sears succeed, while stopping just short of hoping Smith fails, after he acknowledged pursuing the Arkansas vacancy five months after taking the Weber State job.
Asked during the Southeastern Conference Media Days if he hopes to coach the Razorbacks beyond 2012, Smith responded, "Well, certainly. Do I look stupid?" And then he said, "Don't answer that question."
Thursday football • Because of Thursday and Friday games, there will be two Saturdays (Sept. 1 and Oct. 6) this season when none of the state's three Football Bowl Subdivision teams is playing.
One of those Thursday games, Utah State vs. Southern Utah in an Aug. 30 opener, will match two of the state's star linemen although not to be confused with Utah lineman Star Lotulelei. And they're brothers. SUU defensive lineman Cody Larsen will be going against USU center Tyler Larsen.