Perhaps one way to measure that is by asking an unbiased observer, someone who doesn’t have a dog in the fight, so to speak, one way or the other.
On Tuesday, The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel released a project he’s updated only every five years since 2007 he calls Kings and Barons in which he puts each Power Five football programs into a tier based on “a measuring stick of which programs’ brands carry the most national cachet.”
Tuesday’s release was the fourth version of the project.
As fate would have it, Mandel put both BYU and Utah in the same tier.
The Cougars and Utes were placed in Mandel’s “Knights” tier, which is fourth out of the five tiers, but the largest with 27 schools.
In the past there have only been four tiers — Kings, Barons, Knights and Peasants — but Mandel created a fifth this year — Emperors — in which the Alabama Crimson Tide is all alone.
To give a sense of some of the schools in similar company as BYU and Utah, Kentucky, Minnesota and Mississippi State were elevated to Knights from Peasants five years ago, while Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Syracuse and Virginia were demoted from Knights to Peasants.
Mandel wrote that a reason for including Utah in the Knights tier is that, like schools such as Baylor and Oklahoma State, “I’ve seen the TV ratings, and for all their success, people just don’t watch those teams’ games to nearly the degree as Barons with longstanding brands, like Florida, Nebraska or Tennessee.”
For some comparison within the Pac-12 Conference, USC is in the Kings tier, Oregon is in the Barons tier, five schools join the Utes in the Knights tier and four are in the Peasants tier.
As for BYU, Mandel noted that he got requests to include all four schools that will be joining the Big 12 Conference in 2023 but he did not and only included the Cougars — as he has in the past — because they “have long been a de facto Power 5 program.”
Regarding the three other future Big 12 members — Cincinnati, Houston and USF — Mandel wrote that “As of today, I’d default to all three Group of 5 schools as peasants, even after (Cincinnati’s) Playoff run. I’d rather wait and see how much they do or do not raise their profiles upon joining the Big 12 in 2023.”
As far as the rest of the Big 12 goes — excluding future SEC members Texas and Oklahoma — no programs are above Knights, with six programs are in that tier and two are in the Peasants tier.