TribUte newsletter: Why Utah’s season isn’t ‘over’ after a loss to BYU

Utah plays San Diego State on Saturday, then turns its attention to Pac-12 play, beginning Sept. 25 vs. Washington State

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Contrary to what the rage-tweeting faction of the University of Utah fanbase will have you believe, the sky is not falling after the Utes were soundly defeated on Saturday at BYU.

I’ve spent a lot of time this week writing and talking about the offensive line, the defensive line, what went wrong, what needs to be fixed, the play of Charlie Brewer, etc., but here is one thing I haven’t really touched on that needs to be said out loud.

The only thing Saturday guaranteed is that Utah is not going to the College Football Playoff, because it can no longer run the table and stand as an unbeaten Power Five conference champion. That notion was unreasonable, though. To that end, of course no one is signing up for a loss, but nothing’s really happened yet. Everything reasonable, everything attainable is still on the table for these Utes.

Utah can still win the Pac-12 South, Utah can win the Pac-12 championship game, Utah can play in a Rose Bowl for the first time in program history. None of those objectives were taken from the Utes in Provo. Utah is playing for a 14th game. Not 12, not 13, but 14. Playing a 14th is always part of the long-term objective.

Did things go well at BYU? No. Are there things to fix? Yes. Is Utah in a dire situation? Ha, no. Is the season ‘over’ as some are choosing to believe? Hahahahaha, no.

Relax, circle the wagons, settle in and let’s see what happens at San Diego State late Saturday afternoon. More importantly, let’s see what happens Sept. 25 against Washington State, because that’s when it really starts to matter. If we’re sitting here in the days following Sept. 25 and things aren’t any better, we can revisit how we choose to view the remainder of this season.

FYI, there is no need to thank me for acting as the moral compass of the Utah fan base. I am happy to do it as a public service.

What’s on my mind, Utah or otherwise

Charlie Brewer is Utah’s starting quarterback, and there is no good reason he shouldn’t be yet. On the list of problems, or at least things that need fixing/tweaking, Brewer’s play through two games may not even crack the top 10. I get it, though. It was a frustrating loss, the offense was shaky, so the quarterback gets a load of blame. Find a different hill to die on, fans.

• We have not heard the last of Tavion Thomas. Micah Bernard has the juice right now, and has earned the right to see an expanded role out of the backfield, but Thomas is too good, brings too much to the table to cast him aside after two lost fumbles in as many games. Thomas will have a role at San Diego State. Bank on it.

• The atmosphere at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday night was big-time. Loud, engaged, sold out, probably 95% of fans in their seats for the 8:25 p.m. kickoff. Very impressive, very cool to see everything unfold from the press box. The field storming at the horn was also fun. I love a good field/court storming.

• Prohibitive Pac-12 South favorite USC got drilled by Stanford and is now in the market for a new head coach. UCLA looks like it can beat anybody in the conference. Arizona State has yet to crumble in the face of looming NCAA sanctions. Colorado nearly beat Texas A&M, no one quite knows what to make of Utah yet. Folks, the Pac-12 South is Pac-12′ing, and it’s not even October yet.

• Huge win for Oregon at Ohio State, as the Ducks established themselves as a legitimate College Football Playoff contender, but again, this is the Pac-12, so crowning Oregon at this still-early juncture would be premature. The Ducks gave up 612 yards of total offense to the Buckeyes, including 484 through the air to second-year freshman quarterback CJ Stroud. Some of that can be attributed to star edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and five-star freshman linebacker Justin Flowe being injured and unavailable, but that type of defensive performance should be enough to make everyone pause as to what Oregon’s long-term ceiling is.

• Utah announced a 10-game non-conference schedule on Thursday evening, which means the one schedule opening it had is not going to be filled. I have noted this multiple times in this space, but let’s do it again now that the schedule is complete. This staff did a nice job of cobbling together a schedule under less-than-ideal circumstances. Walking in the door in late March, they had no MTE scheduled and were hamstrung with games against Sacramento State and Fresno State. I look forward to 2022-23, when the staff has full control of how it schedules.

Your questions

Q: “Is it fair to wonder if tragedy and turmoil have taken their toll on the coaching staff?” — @RockyMountainBK

A: This is obviously a question pertaining to the death of Ty Jordan. I am also taking this as a wild overreaction to the loss at BYU.

In more of a general sense, I don’t think this is an unfair thing to think about or question, but I’m not sure I have a good answer for this.

Has it taken its toll? Well, to some extent, I would have to believe it has. Life gets harder, or at least different, when someone close to you and/or someone you have looked after dies. Jordan was 19, a college freshman with his whole life in front of him. The circumstances around his death were difficult, unfair, and unfortunately, preventable.

Now consider that these men, Kyle Whittingham, running backs coach Kiel McDonald, the rest of the coaching staff, and even athletic director Mark Harlan have had to be out front, helping the players grieve, speaking publicly on the matter, helping everyone move forward, helping everyone get ready for a season, all while trying to process their own emotions, their own hurt, their own anger.

I won’t pretend to fully understand how hard it’s been for people inside the Eccles Football Center, but if it got to a point where it was too much for someone to deal with, I wouldn’t blame anyone.

Would you?

Q: “Is nitro cold brew overrated?” — @iampangean

A: Cold brew and nitro cold brew are wildly overrated, mostly because I drink coffee to wake up, not to have my heart feel like it is trying to escape from my chest.

Quick tutorial: Cold brew, which is generally caffeinated twice as much, is nothing but coffee grounds and water steeped together for at least 12 hours. I used to do cold brew at home and leave it in the fridge. It’s fine. Nitro cold brew is cold brew that is charged up with nitrogen, which gives it a creamier texture. Big whoop. Your most-pretentious local coffee shops will have nitro cold brew, and it’s not cheap. Take a walk with that.

Give me an iced coffee, which is normal hot coffee brewed, then cooled down, or normal hot coffee poured over ice. I prefer the former, but I’ll settle for the latter with some extra ice.

I turned into a coffee guy in my mid-20s. I regret it.

Q: “If you were Mark Harlan, how would you prioritize future non-conference scheduling with conference realignment, The Alliance, and playoff expansion on the horizon? Do intersectional games have more value (TV and leveraging for Pac-12 playoff participation) than traditional local rivalries? Would you continue scheduling home and home with BYU or prioritize two Alliance games each year (one B1G and one ACC)?” — Emailer Lonnie

A: You people sliding three questions into one submission really think you’re special, huh?

For the purposes of this exercise, let’s assume that things happen as projected, and that at some point, the ACC, Big Ten are all playing eight conference games, leaving four non-conference slots. Of those four, Utah will play an ACC school and a Big Ten school, leaving two non-conference slots up for grabs.

Yes, I do think intersectional games would have more value, both as a TV or streaming product and as resume pieces towards a spot in an expanded College Football Playoff.

I don’t even think there’s much of a debate there. Utah playing other Power Fives is more attractive for both of those reasons vs. Utah playing an in-state FCS, in-state Group of Five, etc. I will say, I think the local matchups are important and have had a place in the past, but the landscape is changing, and it continues to feel like the little guy is getting squeezed out.

The last time I spoke with Harlan, BYU and the Big 12 was not officially a thing, so my thinking on the future of the Utah-BYU series has changed a little.

I think Utah-BYU is important. I think it should continue, I want it to continue beyond the six scheduled games through 2030, but let’s be rational. If you know you’re already playing an ACC team and a Big Ten team every year, is it really a good idea to throw a Big 12 team in there every year?

I say no, but in some years, yes, play BYU. Don’t let that series go by the wayside, but playing the Cougars every year probably makes less sense than it did 10 days ago.