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ESPN's Football Power Index is fascinating to me, because it provides a gauge of every college football matchup throughout the season and factors in the science of probability.
Here’s what I mean: The FPI formula favors Utah in 10 of 12 regular-season games, so the natural response is to think the Utes are expected to go 10-2 (losing at USC and Washington). But that’s not how probability works. The projection is for the Utes to win 8.6 games. I’ll list the FPI’s game-by-game look at the Ute schedule later in this newsletter.
First, a review of some recent stories. With the Pac-12 Media Day not quite two weeks away, I was able to get started on some looks into the Ute football team this week, catching up with the new safety tandem of Terrell Burgess and Julian Blackmon. What struck me about talking to them is how closely the two seem to be bonded, a vital part of managing the secondary from their positions.
Another theme continues to develop, how coach Kyle Whittingham is doing everything he can to maximize the 2019 roster. The Utes have lost some players to other schools as graduate transfers, but they’ve also restocked with incoming players. The latest addition is Hunter Thedford, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound tight end from Southern Methodist.
Donny Daniels is back on the Utah campus, where he initially arrived 30 years ago as a member of the new basketball coaching staff of the late Rick Majerus. He’s already a member of the Assistant Coaches Hall of Fame and was ready to retire, approaching his 65th birthday in August. But he’s revved up about his job as the Utes’ director of player development, and he explained his role to me.
Tribune colleague Jay Drew and I examined the FBS coaching staffs in the state and concluded that Ute defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley ranks No. 1 among future head coaching candidates. Scalley will turn 40 in October and is highly regarded inside and outside of Utah’s athletic department. That was illustrated by the 56-percent raise he received this past winter.
Speaking of percentages, here's the breakdown of Utah's schedule, with expectations of winning, according to the FPI: at BYU, 60.5 percent; Northern Illinois, 94.6 percent; Idaho State, 99.0 percent; at USC, 45.1 percent; Washington State, 68.2 percent; at Oregon State, 85.1 percent; Arizona State, 70.3 percent; California, 81.8 percent; at Washington, 31.4 percent; UCLA 57.9 percent; at Arizona, 63.8 percent; Colorado, 84.7 percent.
So of the 10 games the Utes are favored to win, UCLA at home and BYU on the road are considered the most challenging. The FPI surprisingly ranks UCLA (No. 20) ahead of Utah (No. 22), although having that game at Rice-Eccles Stadium gives Utah the edge. But the 60-40 projection for the Utah-BYU is a reminder that nothing is guaranteed about a ninth straight victory for the Utes in the rivalry.
The 94-percent rating for Utah-Northern Illinois masks how the Utes struggled to beat the Huskies last September. And the Pac-12 opener at USC shapes up as a pivotal game that could go either way.
CBS Sports believes Arizona is undervalued in the Pac-12 South landscape, but also endorses the Utes (CBS).
Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News analyzes Utah’s young men’s basketball roster (DNEWS).
SB Nation’s BlockU site examines how far the Ute football program could advance in 2019 (SBN).
• Utah has not yet published a 2019-20 men’s basketball schedule, but BYU’s visit is expected to be Tuesday, Dec. 3, based on discussions about the Huntsman Center’s 50-year anniversary event. The arena’s first basketball game was played Dec. 2, 1969.
• Former Ute second baseman Oliver Dunn has been promoted to Class-A Charleston in the New York Yankees organization, after batting .240 for rookie-league Pulaski. Dunn was drafted in the 11th round in June and signed with the Yankees after an outstanding junior season. Another former Cottonwood High School player, pitcher Porter Hodge, has signed with the Chicago Cubs as a 13th-round pick, forgoing his Ute scholarship. Hodge was among five Ute signees who were drafted in June; the program is awaiting a decision from one other player, according to a program spokesman.
• The Utah women’s cross country schedule includes home meet Oct. 25 at Sunnyside Park and the Utes will host the NCAA Mountain Region Championships on Nov. 15 at Rose Park Golf Course.
• Utah’s softball program has added a transfer for the 2020. Second baseman Charlee Pond, a southern Califiornia native, batted .323 in 41 games for Ohio University as a freshman.
• Ute lacrosse assistant coaches Marcus Holman and Will Manny will play in the inaugural Premier Lacrosse League All-Star Game, July 21 in Los Angeles. Holman is second in the league with 15 goals and Manny is third with 14 goals. They’re teammates for Archers LC in the PLL, which roams around the country and stages weekend tripleheaders.