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Kragthorpe: BYU, Utah, USU have bowls in 2013 forecast
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Without having Robert Anae tell me what to write, drawing any conclusions from spring football practice is tricky.

Everything is slightly skewed in April, when quarterbacks usually are shielded from tacklers, veteran players often are held out of scrimmages and schemes generally are basic. Yet enough material surfaced to make me believe the following: Utah's offense will improve sufficiently to give the Utes a better record in 2013. BYU's offense also will be upgraded, but not enough to keep the Cougars from having a worse record. Utah State will look about the same offensively and defensively, but the Aggies can't do what they did last season.

And the series of in-state games could be almost as compelling as 2012, when the Utah-USU, Utah-BYU and USU-BYU contests were decided by a total of six points, as of the end of regulation. Those games again will have a lot to say about bowl possibilities, after an overtime loss to USU basically kept Utah from being eligible. USU could afford to be swept by the others and still qualify, but not so for BYU or Utah.

The other common theme is each team plays an early-season game against outside competition that will give us a great gauge of its future.

Utah

Of all the issues affecting Utah's offense last season, injuries and inconsistency with the line may have been the biggest factors. So beyond what co-offensive coordinator Dennis Erickson brought to the Utes this spring — and his influence was very evident — Erickson's glowing review of the line's play was the most meaningful development.

Moving into the top half of the Pac-12 offensively remains a huge jump, but Utah should improve incrementally. The Utes have gone only 4-5 in conference home games in two seasons, so the issue in 2013 is whether they can beat the likes of Oregon State, UCLA and Arizona State at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

A win over OSU potentially could give Utah a 4-0 start, brightening the season's outlook. But a wobbly start would make a stretch of six Pac-12 games seem quite daunting — UCLA, Stanford, at Arizona, at USC, ASU, at Oregon.

Key game • Sept. 14, vs. Oregon State. Projected record • 7-5. Bowl • New Mexico Bowl vs. Fresno State.

BYU

Purposely or not, Anae made himself the story of BYU's spring in his return as offensive coordinator, with some bizarre responses in interviews. I'll judge him strictly by his offense's performance. Anae's scheme likely will emphasize more running than you might expect from his fast-paced approach.

He utilized running backs Curtis Brown and Harvey Unga in his initial BYU tenure and now has a quarterback (Taysom Hill) with the multidimensional skills that made Arizona's offense successful last season.

The independent Cougars have an attractive, intriguing schedule. They can handle a couple of home losses if they're good enough to win toss-up road games against Virginia, Houston and Nevada.

Key game • Aug. 31, at Virginia. Projected record • 6-6. Bowl • Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl vs. Washington.

Utah State

Gary Andersen was charmed. His USU program arrived just when the Western Athletic Conference was weakened, contributing to an 11-2 record and his promotion to Wisconsin.

It gets tougher for coach Matt Wells in the Mountain West, but the return of quarterback Chuckie Keeton and 17 other starters has positioned USU for success. The Aggies got a scheduling break, skipping Nevada, Fresno State and San Diego State in the MW rotation. USU should win its last five games. Getting to mid-October with a decent record is the challenge. If the Aggies start 2-5, which is possible, Wells will face some questions.

Key game • Sept. 7, at Air Force. Projected record • 8-4. Bowl • Poinsettia Bowl vs. Army.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt —

Utah's 2013 schedule

Aug. 29 • Utah State

Sept. 7 • Weber State

Sept. 14 • Oregon State

Sept. 21 • at BYU

Oct. 3 • UCLA

Oct. 12 • Stanford

Oct. 19 • at Arizona

Oct. 26 • at USC

Nov. 9 • Arizona State

Nov. 16 • at Oregon

Nov. 23 • at Washington State

Nov. 30 • Colorado

BYU's 2013 schedule

Aug. 31 • at Virginia

Sept. 7 • Texas

Sept. 21 • Utah

Sept. 27 • Middle Tennessee

Oct. 4 • at Utah State

Oct. 12 • Georgia Tech

Oct. 19 • at Houston

Oct. 26 • Boise State

Nov. 9 • at Wisconsin

Nov. 16 • Idaho State

Nov. 23 • at Notre Dame

Nov. 30 • Nevada

Utah State's 2013 schedule

Aug. 29 • at Utah

Sept. 7 • at Air Force

Sept. 14 • Weber State

Sept. 21 • at USC

Sept. 27 • at San Jose State

Oct. 4 • BYU

Oct. 12 • Boise State

Oct. 19 • at New Mexico

Nov. 2 • Hawaii

Nov. 9 • at UNLV

Nov. 23 • Colorado State

Nov. 30 • Wyoming

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