Kragthorpe: No BYU-Utah game, but somebody must win
The long, hot summer will lead into the most frustrating college football season in the state's history.
As if it is not enough to have the Utah-BYU rivalry interrupted for two years, the schools lack any common opponent in 2014 for the first time ever. That's a problem, in a culture that demands a winner between these two programs never mind that Utah State may have produced the state's two best seasons lately.
Based on the theory that many Utah and BYU fans are happy only when they can claim superiority over the other side, I'm here to help.
My method uses Athlon's rankings of all 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams (including BYU at No. 35 and Utah at No. 54). I've assigned point values for each win and loss, judging by the level of competition, providing a way to determine the Utah-BYU champion in a year when the Utes can't add to their four-game winning streak in the rivalry and the Cougars can't do anything about that trend.
Utah's schedule is so much more difficult than BYU's that merely comparing records is inadequate. If BYU goes to the Miami Beach Bowl with an 8-4 record and Utah stays home at 5-7, will the Cougars have won? No. If Utah qualifies for a bowl vacancy outside of the Pac-12 structure at 6-6 and BYU is 10-2, will the Utes have won? Not necessarily.
Some observers may wonder why such competition is necessary, when the Utes and Cougars compete in their own domains and have their own standards of success. These are people unfamiliar with the state. If the rivalry divides households and permeates life in Utah, the constant comparisons are not going to stop just because the teams are not playing one another this season.
I applaud fans of each team who ignore the other school and pour all of their efforts into supporting their own programs, but there are not enough of you. So some numerical, objective comparison is required. The opponents can rise above or fall below preseason expectations, but I'm sticking with these rankings.
The Utes can earn extra credit for knocking off a top-10 team in the Pac-12, with multiple opportunities. If BYU can win at Texas, that also would be a landmark achievement.
Each team will be fun to watch this season. So will Utah State, which visits BYU in the only in-state meeting of FBS schools. The Utes and Cougars have more offensive playmakers than any time in the past five seasons, they have adequate defenses and they have intriguing quarterback situations BYU, because of Taysom Hill's potentially improved passing and Utah, because of Travis Wilson's competition with Oklahoma transfer Kendal Thompson.
If Wilson performs well enough to keep his job, that will be a good sign. If Thompson overtakes him, that might be an even better indication of where the Utes are headed in offensive coordinator Dave Christensen's first season.
Utah and BYU could have very good seasons. They also could be very average, if they fail to hang onto the football and finish more drives in 2014.
Either way, one of them will be judged better than the other, beyond their records. Save this accompanying chart and track the competition throughout the season. You can thank me later, or not. Measuring up
Utah and BYU won't meet in 2014 and have no common opponent. This formula is designed to determine which team has the better season, factoring in the degree of difficulty. Each win or loss is assigned a point value, based on Athlon's preseason FBS rankings, with bonuses for road wins:
Opponent Ranking Win value Loss value
Idaho State FCS 1 -12
Fresno State 62 3 -5
@Michigan 32 8 -1
Washington State 56 4 -4
@UCLA 7 12 0
@Oregon State 53 6 -2
USC 14 8 0
@Arizona State 16 10 0
Oregon 6 10 0
@Stanford 12 10 0
Arizona 45 4 -4
@Colorado 71 4 -3
Opponent Ranking Win value Loss value
@UConn 88 2 -5
@Texas 17 10 0
Houston 69 3 -5
Virginia 72 3 -5
Utah State 49 4 -4
@Central Florida 55 6 -2
Nevada 82 2 -7
@Boise State 46 6 -2
@Middle Tennessee 90 2 -5
UNLV 101 1 -12
Savannah State FCS 1 -12
@California 76 3 -3