In the aftermath of the University of Utah announcing a football home-and-home series with Wisconsin earlier this week, my contention is that the Utes are doing a nice job with their future scheduling.
This has been touched on a lot already, but for starters, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan has clearly made it a point to try to beef up the football schedule. Since his arrival, the Utes have agreed to home-and-home series with Arkansas, LSU, Florida and now the Badgers, all of which came after former-AD Chris Hill a few years back signed on to face Baylor.
Power Five home-and-homes are high-profile, they get fan bases excited, they get alumni excited, and they, presumably, will get the players excited for something significant early in the season, before Pac-12 play starts.
Beyond the Power Fives, Utah is going to keep playing BYU, and the folks around these parts who would rather see that series go away after 100 games in 105 seasons should settle in. That matchup is not going anywhere any time soon.
A Power Five + BYU + either an in-state FCS team or, in some years, a Group of Five team. It’s an inexact formula, but that is how Utah appears to be going about things.
In some years, the schedule will be more rugged, such as 2023 when it’s actually two Power Fives, Florida and Baylor, along with Weber State. Other years will be more manageable, like 2024 when Southern Utah, BYU and Baylor all visit Rice-Eccles Stadium, but Harlan’s point on nonconference scheduling has been made.
Beef it up with some brand names, keep playing the archrival on an annual basis, and fill the third game with something winnable, potentially someone from the state of Utah.
I, for one, commend what Utah is doing with its football schedule.
What’s on my mind, Utah or otherwise
• Basketball coach Craig Smith needs a big guy. Utah is deep in the mix for Boston College transfer Steffon Mitchell, who is down to the Utes, San Diego State and Minnesota. UNLV transfer Cheikh Mbacke Diong announced earlier this week his list of suitors is down to Utah, Florida State and UCF. To me, Diong checks a lot of boxes in terms of what Smith wants. A big, physically-imposing forward who can rebound and protect the rim, Mitchell would be a solid get, but Diong’s size and skill set would certainly solve some problems currently facing this roster.
• We have now entered the gray area of the college football calendar. Spring practice is over, the season is still four months from starting, and we’re still three months from fall camp opening. It’s going to be a slog to get to August, at which point there will be some live action to write about, but the good news is, it appears that there will in fact be live action to write about, including a full 12-game season. Remember what last summer looked like, with Doomsday scenarios in the face of the pandemic? I’ll take the slog to August over Doomsday scenarios.
• Whatever Smith and his staff decide to do about an MTE is going to help dictate what the rest of the Utes’ non-conference schedule looks like. It’s early, but we know it is Utah’s turn to host BYU, and Harlan told The Tribune earlier this year that the Utes will host Fresno State next season. Beyond that, three thoughts. One, Utah still owes Missouri a game in Columbia as part of a home-and-home. Two, it does not sound like Utah is going to schedule Dixie State next season, but is open to doing so in the future. Lastly, it also does not sound like Utah is going to schedule Utah State, which is understandable given Smith is in year one with the Utes after coming down from Logan.
• The Utah golf team’s selection to the NCAA West Regional on Wednesday marks the first time the program will compete in a regional since 1992. Good for fifth-year head coach Garrett Clegg, a 2004 Utah graduate and a two-time All-Mountain West selection as a Ute.
Q: “Did Maryland give Ian Martinez’s dad a coaching job?” — Rich Love
A: No, Mark Turgeon did not give Henry Martinez a job with the Terrapins. Not on the bench, not behind the scenes, not at all.
I don’t really have anything else here. Next question.
Q: “How do you feel about pineapple on pizza? If it’s not the most offensive topping, in your opinion, what is?” — Anonymous
A: Putting pineapple on pizza is a wild move that I am personally offended by.
Pineapple belongs in fruit salad. You can grill it, you can add it as part of kabobs, you can make a salsa out of it, you can put it on certain fish, and any number of other uses I’m too lazy to come up with right now.
It is a sacrilege and makes absolutely no culinary sense here in terms of pizza.
Stop. Normalizing. Pineapple. On. Pizza.
Q: What exactly does your job include now that we are kind of in a college sports dead period?” — @Eric18Utah
A: If college sports is in a dead period, does that mean I can completely disappear until the football opener on Sept. 2?
Work should lighten up for a little while compared to in-season responsibilities, but there are still things to do.
The transfer portal is still spinning for both basketball and football, there are enterprise stories I would like to pursue, and as a staff, we’re going to be all-in on Jazz playoff coverage.
I’ll be staying busy and out of trouble, no doubt.
Q: “What would it take for Utah to be a top 3-4 team in the Pac-12 every year after Whittingham?” — @UnholiestJedi
A: There are a lot of factors to consider, and we could spend all day discussing them, but I’ll zero in one that has been on my mind for nearly a year at this point.
At a place like Utah, I think continuity would help. To that end, Morgan Scalley having his head coach-in-waiting tag rescinded by Harlan, and in turn leaving the future of the position beyond Whittingham up in the air, is the biggest long-term question mark facing this program.
Scalley may still succeed Whittingham, who has said publicly he doesn’t plan to coach past the age of 65, but that appears to be far from the done deal it once was.
Of course, there is time to figure this out. Whittingham will turn 62 in November. If he holds himself to not coaching past 65, that would mean he steps away after the 2024 season, but that’s just me throwing darts.
• R.I.P. to the Blue Plate Diner in Sugar House, which closed its doors for good on Tuesday afternoon. Great spot, excellent staff, great food, extensive vegetarian/vegan options. Blue Plate Diner was one of the first places I frequented when I first got here. She will be missed.
• ‘You get what you pay for’ absolutely applies to pots and pans. Those are not something to skimp on.
• New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy encouraging of-age Jerseysans to get vaccinated with his ‘shot and a beer’ program is the smartest thing I’ve ever heard about anything in my life. If Utah Gov. Spencer Cox copied this, but with Swig, this entire state would be vaccinated in less than a week.
• I love a good Cobb salad, something I didn’t start appreciating until adulthood. I’m glad I grew up.
• Have you ever started watching a show, grew to dislike it, but felt compelled to see it all the way through? Early in the pandemic, I started watching The O.C. for the first time, but Hulu got rid of it when I was roughly 40 episodes in. I recently got back into it after discovering HBO Max carries it. I have 25-30 episodes left, and it’s going to be tough to get to the finish line.