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Local college football teams have lofty goals

Recent successes and new faces have these programs thinking higher

Illustration By Aaron Thorup, Deseret News

There are more than 200 Division I football teams, and they can't all win all their games.

But for this one week — after fall camp and before the first games this weekend — they are all undefeated.

This is when optimism can be as prevalent as grass and mud stuck in cleats.

Every team has a shot. Fans around the country are thinking, "If we can just get by that first week, or if they can sneak out of there with a victory, maybe this will be our year."

The Utah Utes were that team last season. Kyle Whittingham has his program on Cloud 9 — or No. 2 as it was after January's Sugar Bowl. They'll have to finish one better to improve.

And that's where the BYU Cougars found themselves 25 years ago — on top. And while perfection is not talked about during Bronco Mendenhall's practices, every BYU fan knows what the quest is.

What fuels the excitement in Utah County is the Cougars' recent success in getting to bowl games, something the Utah State Aggies haven't done in 12 years. But an improving team and a new hope in head coach Gary Anderson has some predicting extra football for USU.

And why not? Ron McBride breathed life into Weber State — a program that never thought a deep run in the playoffs was possible. Now they start the season ranked in the top 10 in the Championship Subdivision preseason polls, talked about in the same breath as Big Sky perennial champion Montana.

The Southern Utah Thunderbirds are looking to start a new tradition in the relatively new Great West Conference. The T-Birds, led by second-year head coach Ed Lamb, will have to prove their worth against the likes of Utah State and San Diego State.

For these reasons college football teams in the state of Utah have their eyes set on a loftier spot in the college football sky.