The three Greatest Stories of College Football for Utah in 2021

The three Greatest Stories of College Football for Utah in 2021

by Daniel Olsen

This has been quite the year for college football in the state of Utah. They are one of six states to have at least two teams ranked in the AP Top 25. They also have three teams with double-digit win seasons, two of which won their conference championships. It’s time to look at the biggest storyline for each FBS program.

Utah – Long Live 22

How does a team who lost two players in nine months recover from a 1-2 start? They only went on to go 9-3 in the regular season, win the PAC-12 championship and represent their conference in the Rose Bowl.

What is even more surprising is the adversity that the Utes dealt with en route to this achievement. The Utes lost two players, Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe, to tragic deaths. They both happened within nine months of each other. Both players wore number 22 and were friends from the same hometown.

Even though the Utes lost a close game to a talented Buckeyes team, they can still hold their heads high as one of the most resilient teams. As tragic as the last year has been for them, their comeback story is one of the greatest in college football this year.

BYU – Welcome to the Big 12

While BYU had a great season this year, it was expected that they’d lose a few more games than last year due to the increased strength of schedule. What was surprising is Oklahoma and Texas accepting invitations to the SEC and thus speeding up the Big 12 expansion process.

The Cougars have had ups and downs in this decade of Independence, but their recent upswing and worldwide fan base led to the invitation to join UCF, Cincinnati and Houston as the newest members of the Big 12 Conference.

The Cougars went 5-0 vs the PAC-12 and 6-1 overall vs P5 opponents this season. The one loss was to a future Big 12 opponent in the Baylor Bears. While the losses to a mediocre Boise State and UAB were confusing, BYU overall proved that they have fared well in Independence and are ready for the stability that a P5 conference like the Big 12 will bring.

Utah State – From Worst to First

The Utah State Aggies won just one game in 2020. Their season was marred by COVID and a coaching change. After Gary Andersen agreed to step down, Frank Maile was the interim head coach. Maile was hired by Boise State as a coordinator and the Aggies hired Blake Anderson from Arkansas State.

What happened this season was extraordinary. While the Aggies were small in some areas, they made up for it with quickness and determination. Many of their games were close comebacks. Several players (Savon Scarver, Logan Bonner, Deven Thompkins) set school and even national records at their respective positions.

The Aggies went from one win to a conference championship, LA Bowl victory and likely a Top 25 ranking when the final polls are submitted next week.

While all three stories are significant, the comeback from the Aggies was the most unlikely. They were a couple plays away from being lucky to even play a bowl game. However, when it came to the final exam, they passed with flying colors.

It was a great year for all three FBS teams in Utah. Stay tuned for more coverage over the offseason.

Featured image courtesy Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

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