It has become a yearly tradition at this point.

Every year, ESPN’s Bill Connelly examines how much each FBS team is bringing back — production-wise — for the upcoming season, updating his formula year-by-year.

Most years, returning production proves to be a good to sometimes great indicator as to how well teams will do in the upcoming college football season, the outliers being those elite recruiting teams that reload year after year with four- and five-star prospects.

The Georgias, Alabamas and Ohio States of the world.

Connelly’s formula is once again changed this year — he has placed greater emphasis on positions such as quarterback and offensive line on offense and defensive tackle on defense — and the Utah Utes appear to be in excellent shape heading into the 2023 season.

Not so much the BYU Cougars as they enter the Big 12, or the Utah State Aggies as they look to bounce back from a disappointing 2022 campaign, though.

Where does Utah rank?

Utah tight end Brant Kuithe heads upfield during a game against Florida in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022.
Utah Utes tight end Brant Kuithe (80) makes a cut during a pass play as Utah and Florida play in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. Florida won 29-26. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Utah football fans know that some of the Utes’ most important players opted not to leave this offseason, including but not limited to starting quarterback Cam Rising and star tight end/wide receiver Brant Kuithe.

As a result, Utah rates high in returning production. Quite high in fact.

Of 133 FBS programs, Utah rates No. 16 in returning production, tied with USC for the most among Pac-12 schools.

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The Utes return 76% of their overall production from 2022, 83% on offense (fifth-most in the country) and 69% on defense (45th-highest).

Throw in the top-rated recruiting class in program history — Utah finished with No. 21 class in the country according to both 247 Sports and On3 Sports, while Rivals had the Utes even higher, at No. 19 — and all signs point to another successful campaign for Utah.

Considering the last two seasons ended with Pac-12 titles and berths in the Rose Bowl, things are looking good up on the hill.

Where does BYU rank?

BYU wide receiver Keanu Hill celebrates his touchdown against Utah State with offensive lineman Kingsley Suamataia in Provo on, Sept. 29, 2022.
BYU Cougars wide receiver Keanu Hill (1) celebrates his touchdown with teammate Kingsley Suamataia (78) in Provo on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Unlike Utah, BYU hemorrhaged talent this offseason, be it with NFL draft declarations or the transfer portal.

Such is life in modern college football.

The Cougars lost their starting and backup quarterbacks, as well as multiple starting offensive linemen.

BYU rebounded from those losses, but the Cougars’ returning production still took a major hit.

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BYU comes in at No. 70 in the country in returning production ahead of spring camp (teams can drop further after spring football as more players transfer out).

The Cougars return 62% of their offensive production (good for 83rd in college football) and 65% of their defensive production (rating 61st).

BYU did have some major wins in the transfer portal at key positions — offensive linemen Paul Maile and Weylin Lapuaho, and defensive tackle Jackson Cravens to name a few — but the Cougars rate seventh among Big 12 teams in returning production and are making the leap to a Power Five conference.

Things won’t be easy going forward in 2023.

Where does Utah State rank?

Utah State Aggies quarterback Cooper Legas (5) throws against BYU in Provo on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.
Utah State Aggies quarterback Cooper Legas (5) throws against BYU in Provo on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The 2022 season was a disappointment for Utah State.

Head coach Blake Anderson said as much on national signing day, even though the Aggies rallied from a dismal start to finish bowl eligible.

Still, 6-7 was a far cry from the year before and not what the Aggies aspire to.

Improving upon that record in 2023 might prove difficult, though.

The Aggies rank No. 103 in returning production, after losing multiple starting wide receivers, offensive linemen and defensive linemen.

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Utah State returns on 55% of its production from last season, 44% on offense (No. 119) and 66% (No. 56) on defense.

That defensive rating is higher due to the return of many in the Aggies’ secondary — star safety Ike Larsen among them — as well as the return of starting linebackers AJ Vongphachanh and MJ Tafisi, but USU has had to replace nearly its entire defensive line.

The Aggies rate 10th in returning production in the Mountain West Conference and didn’t bring in a ton of FBS transfers for an immediate influx of talent either, relying heavily instead on the junior college ranks.

Those additions could pay off and not all JUCO transfers are treated equal — Micah Davis is a former standout wide receiver at Air Force — but Utah State has a difficult road ahead.

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