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Where Utah and BYU place in way-too-early 2022 college football top 25 rankings

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BYU Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall gets pushed by Utah Utes cornerback Clark Phillips III.

BYU Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall gets pushed by Utah Utes cornerback Clark Phillips III during the second half of an NCAA college football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. BYU won 26-17.

Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

The 2021 college football season ended Monday night with Georgia beating Alabama to win the Bulldogs’ first national championship since 1980, but it’s never too soon to begin thinking about next season.

After all three Utah FBS programs — Utah, BYU and Utah State — were ranked in the final AP Top 25 for the first time in history to end 2021 (each program finished with at least 10 wins and the Utes and Aggies won their conference championships), Utah and BYU are generating buzz in national publications’ “way-too-early” top 25 rankings.

The Utes are ranked as high as No. 4, while the Cougars are ranked as high as No. 14.

Here’s a look at where a bunch of major national outlets are pegging the two teams.


ESPN

Utah: No. 7

What they said about Utah:

The Utes’ inspiring season ended with a disappointing 48-45 loss to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Still, Kyle Whittingham and his team did amazing work following the tragic deaths of two players. The Utes should again be favored to win the Pac-12, even with star players such as Lloyd, Sewell and Covey departing for the NFL. Last week, the Utes added transfer Diabate, who was Florida’s second-leading tackler last season. Quarterback Cameron Rising will enter the offseason as the undisputed starter. The Utes open the 2022 season at Florida and also play San Diego State in a nonconference game. — Mark Schlabach

BYU: No. 18

What they said about BYU:

The Cougars went 21-4 the past two seasons, which earned coach Kalani Sitake a new contract and hefty raise. This past season, BYU went 6-1 against Power 5 foes and 5-0 against the Pac-12. With BYU moving to the Big 12 in 2023, it has to get bigger, stronger and deeper on defense, which was a shortcoming in losses to Boise State, Baylor and UAB in the Independence Bowl. The good news is that every starter is expected back on defense in 2022, when injured players like linebacker Keenan Pili and cornerbacks Micah Harper and Keenan Ellis should be available. Replacing Allgeier, who ran for 1,606 yards and led FBS players with 23 rushing touchdowns, won’t be easy. The Cougars added Brooks, who led Cal in rushing last season, and Heimuli, a transfer from Stanford to help. Quarterback Jaren Hall and four starting offensive linemen are returning. BYU’s schedule next season includes home games against Baylor and Arkansas, road games at Oregon, Boise State and Stanford and a contest against Notre Dame in Las Vegas. — Mark Schlabach

The Athletic

Utah: No. 4

What they said about Utah:

The Utes should be runaway favorites to repeat as Pac-12 champions. Quarterback Cam Rising, running backs Tavion Thomas and Micah Bernard, tight ends Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid and most of the O-line return. The defense loses All-American LB Devin Lloyd and DE Mika Tafua, but CB Clark Phillips III is a cornerstone, and S Cole Bishop, DE Van Fillinger and DT Junior Tafuna all became major contributors. No more Britain Covey, though. — Stewart Mandel

BYU: N/A


247Sports

Utah: No. 8

What they said about Utah:

The reigning Pac-12 champs could be one of next season’s preseason darlings after winning 10 games under Kyle Whittingham. Much of that nucleus is back in 2022, including quarterback Cam Rising. Running back Tavion Thomas is back too, after rushing for 1,108 yards and 21 scores. Keep an eye on this team early.

BYU: No. 14

What they said about BYU:

When you return a difference-maker at quarterback coming off a 10-win season, hype is warranted. But now, BYU welcomes back top wideout Gunner Romney — who is skipping an NFL opportunity — and recently landed Cal running back Christopher Brooks and Stanford fullback Houston Heimuli out of the portal to complete what should be a feared offense next fall. Over the first seven weeks, BYU will play Baylor, Oregon, Notre Dame and Arkansas, four teams included in our preseason way-too-early rankings. If there’s a darkhorse playoff team for 2022, you could be looking at them.

Sports Illustrated

Utah: No. 5

What they said about Utah:

The Utes lose a few key contributors off their Rose Bowl team, but more are coming back. Running back Tavion Thomas is returning after a 21-touchdown season, and so is quarterback Cameron Rising. The defense should again be nasty. They open with a winnable game at Florida that could be a springboard into a big season. — Pat Forde

BYU: N/A


CBS Sports

Utah: No. 13

What they said about Utah:

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff says his league is undersized in both lines. That’s not the case at Utah where the Utes specialize in playing bully ball. Ask Oregon. Kyle Whittingham has assembled seasons of at least nine wins in six of the last seven campaigns. A rare nonconference battle with Florida opens the season. — Dennis Dodd

BYU: No. 21

What they said about BYU:

We’re in the middle of one of the best runs in school history. Kalani Sitake is settling in as the guy to lead the Cougars into the big time in the Big 12. The team with the best record last season in the Pac-12 (5-0) plays Oregon, Stanford, Boise State, Baylor and Arkansas. Someone will have to step up for the productive Tyler Allgeier at running back. — Dennis Dodd

Bleacher Report

Utah: No. 5

What they said about Utah:

Utah has reached the Pac-12 Championship Game in three of the last four seasons, only missing in the pandemic-altered 2020 campaign. Pending some NFL or transfer decisions, the reigning Pac-12 champions are built to contend nationally. — David Kenyon

BYU: No. 19

What they said about BYU:

After cracking the 10-win mark in 2021, Ole Miss and BYU are most in danger of slipping. Ole Miss has to rebuild its offense, and BYU will face a difficult schedule. Both situations can be handled, but this is an important offseason for the programs. — David Kenyon

Sporting News

Utah: No. 10

What they said about Utah:

The Utes will fly under the radar again, but the defending Pac-12 champions will be in the mix with longtime coach Kyle Whittingham. Quarterback Cam Rising settled in as a reliable starter, and Tavion Thomas is back at running back. The defense loses linebacker Devin Lloyd, but Florida transfer Mohamoud Diabate could be an instant impact player at the position. Speaking of Florida, that is where the Utes will open the season in a high-profile nonconference game for the Pac-12. — Bill Bender

BYU: N/A