by Daniel Olsen
Throughout the doldrums of summer, college football fans start to count down the days until their favorite teams kick off their new season. After the state of Utah had arguably the best season per capita last year due BYU, Utah and Utah State finishing in the AP Top 25, they all have hopes of a great 2022 season. It’s time to see how many will compete for the most prestigious bowl games.
Most Likely: Utah Continues to Dominate Dormant PAC-12
After the PAC-12 went winless in bowl season last year, the Utes are the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the conference: they’re the only hope of a return to the CFP. With Oregon and USC looking to rebuild with first year head coaches, it’s the perfect time for the Utes to capitalize on a conference that has been down for the majority of the College Football Playoff era.
One of the biggest games of the year will likely be the season opener at The Swamp with the Florida Gators. A road SEC win for the Utes likely puts them as an early favorite to crash the College Football Playoff party. Their toughest competition in conference play is likely the USC Trojans, so don’t be surprised if their home game on October 15, 2022 ends up on College Gameday.
Possibly: BYU wins final year of Independence
The Cougars may have saved the best for last as they will look to complete their final year as an FBS Independent before heading to the Big 12. This will not come without stiff tests. Five of the teams they will face in 2022 finished the year ranked in the AP Top 25 last year. Those teams were #5 Baylor, #8 Notre Dame, #21 Arkansas, #22 Oregon and #24 Utah State.
The good news for Cougar fans is they are coming off a Top 25 finish themselves. Baylor, the best team to beat BYU last year, is making the return trip to Provo. If the Cougars can get off to a good start by beating USF in the humidity, and then come back to use the elevation to their advantage vs Baylor, they could be in the driver’s seat early and often.
As always, the first half of the schedule will remain tough with a road game at Oregon followed by home games against Wyoming and USU. Then, they have a game with Notre Dame in Las Vegas for the Shamrock Series. The second half should have some exciting games as well with Arkansas, Boise State and Stanford in the mix.
This will be a stiff test, but if the Cougars pick up where they left off last season, they could notch their third straight double digit win season to catapult their preparation for Big 12 competition.
Long Shot: USU scores upset of the century to go undefeated
This is the toughest shot of any team in the state for a College Football Playoff bid. It’s not only because the Aggies are in a G5 conference. Their CFP hopes will likely be ended by Labor Day as they have a date with the defending SEC champions: the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The last G5 team to beat Alabama was the Utah Utes in 2008. Since then, the Crimson Tide has won by more than two touchdowns per game over all other G5 competition. Cincinnati only received a CFP invite last year after going undefeated in the regular season for two straight years.
Unless the Aggies can beat Alabama and go undefeated, their hopes of a CFP invite are bleak. However, if they lose a close contest to Alabama and win out, an NY6 berth is certainly in the cards.
It will be fun to see if the Aggies, Utes or Cougars can play on the biggest stage in college football. The Utes got a taste of that last year in the Rose Bowl. Who’s got next?
Featured image courtesy Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News