by Daniel Olsen
With the 2022 college football season being less than two weeks away, fans are buzzing about the preseason AP Top 25 poll. The Utes are ranked at #7, BYU is #25 and Utah State received two votes. While the Utes and Cougars have been the headliners for athletics in the state of Utah, it’s time stop overlooking other talented programs in the state of Utah.
1. Three finishes in the AP Top 25
To put this in comparison, this alone makes the Aggies one of the top ten programs from a Group of Five conference in the last decade. BYU has finished in the same poll in the last two seasons, but still trails the Aggies by one in the same time frame. The Utes have set the standard with a state high five finishes in the AP Top 25 since joining the Pac-12.
It may seem like just a mere group of voters, but giving the press a voice allows the opinions of people covering the college football a platform to make their opinion known. The Aggies finished #16 in 2012, #22 in 2018 and #24 in 2021.
The USA Today Coaches Poll is another respected poll since coaches have the most experience with playing against these teams. While coaches don’t play against all the 130 other teams, they have an idea of what’s going on. The Aggies finished #17 in 2012, #21 in 2018 and not ranked in 2021 in the final voting for this poll.
2. Bowl wins
While the Aggies went 1–6 in their first seven bowl games as a program, they have been gone 5-3 the last decade with 2016 and 2020 being the only years they didn’t qualify for one. This trajectory hopes to continue as the Aggies have a solid coaching staff and roster. There are also currently 43 Bowl games, so the odds now are that all teams with a .500 record or better should qualify. It varies from year to year. Some years there aren’t enough eligible teams and some 5-7 ones get in. Other years there are too many and some 6-6 teams get left out.
USU capped off their final season in the WAC with a win over Toledo in the Famous Potato Bowl in 2012. The winningest senior class in Aggie history then won their next two bowl games: the ranked Northern Illinois Huskies in the 2013 Poinsettia Bowl and the UTEP Miners in the New Mexico Bowl.
While the Aggies had some bad luck for a while in odd years with losses in 2015, 2017 and 2019, they got back to their winning ways in 2018 and 2021. They won the New Mexico Bowl in 2018 over North Texas and the first ever Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl in 2021. That was perhaps their most impressive bowl win ever over a Power 5 opponent in Oregon State.
The Aggies have fared well compared to in-state competition. While BYU has been Bowl eligible in nine seasons, one more than the Aggies, they are just 4-5 in that span. The Utes have been Bowl eligible seven times and gone 4-3 in that same span.
3. Conference Championships
While the WAC was very watered down in its final season of football in 2012, the Aggies did have to go through a ranked Louisiana Tech team to go undefeated in conference play and claim the final conference championship. However, it meant more once they made the jump up to the Mountain West to play in a high stakes conference championship game.
The Aggies appeared in the Mountain West Conference championship game the next year, losing a close contest to a tough Fresno State. It was a great first year in a deeper Conference than the one they were in the year prior. The Aggies would suffer through eight more years of close calls that kept them out of the conference championship game. Part of the reason was that at times the Mountain Division was tougher with Boise and the Aggies were the second best team in the conference.
A golden opportunity came when Boise hired a new coach in Andy Avalos. The Broncos had their worst year in decades despite handily beating the Aggies. The Aggies were able to win the Mountain Division with a 6-2 conference record as the Broncos lost their final game to San Diego State. Then, the Aggies absolutely crushed the Aztecs 46-13 in the championship game.
How does this compare to other teams in the state of Utah? At the FBS level, BYU has been Independent, but could arguably be the winner of many G5 conferences in their last two years. The Utes earned a 1-2 record in conference championship games in the last decade, finally breaking through to their goal of a Rose Bowl the same year the Aggies won their championship. The Rose Bowl money wise is a greater prize, but the Aggies can still claim the most conference championships in the last decade.
Conclusion: Give Weber State Respect
At the FCS level, the Weber State Wildcats are arguably better than all three FBS teams in Utah. They have won three conference titles and appeared in five postseasons under Jay Hill, going as far as the semifinals in 2019. While bowl games aren’t a factor at this level, the expanded playoff allows a pool of the best teams to compete for a title.
The Wildcats have also been consistently ranked in the Top 25 and are currently #20 in the 2022 Preseason FCS Coaches Poll. While the Aggies, Cougars and Utes have all accomplished quite a bit at their level, it’s time to give the Wildcats respect for being elite at theirs.
Featured Image courtesy Associated Press