There are now fewer than 100 days until the 2023 college football season kicks off, and for Utah, BYU and Utah State, there are varying expectations for the upcoming season.

The Utes are two-time defending Pac-12 champions and expected to be a contender again in a top-heavy Pac-12, with players like quarterback Cam Rising and tight end Brant Kuithe leading the way.

The Cougars are entering their first season in the Big 12 Conference, and BYU must do so with a new quarterback under center and a first-year defensive coordinator on the sideline. 

The Aggies, meanwhile, are coming off a season where they played in the postseason but have a bevy of talent to replace, having lost among the most returning production in the country via the NCAA transfer portal.

Those expectations are reflected in the post-spring ESPN SP+ rankings from Bill Connelly, which were updated earlier this month.

Three main factors go into Connelly’s rankings — the returning production for a team, its recent recruiting efforts and the program’s recent history.

Connelly further explains that the SP+ rankings “aren’t intended to be a guess at what the AP Top 25 will look like at the end of the year. These are simply early offseason power rankings based on the information we have been able to gather to date.”

What do these rankings say about the 2023 prospects for BYU, Utah and Utah State?

BYU’s head football coach Kalani Sitake attends BYU’s pro day at the school’s practice facility in Provo on March 24, 2023.
BYU’s head football coach Kalani Sitake attends BYU’s Pro Day at the school’s practice facility in Provo on Friday, March 24, 2023. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Where does BYU football rank in ESPN’s post-spring SP+ rankings?

  • BYU ranks No. 60 nationally in the SP+ metrics, including No. 42 on offense and No. 80 on defense.
  • The Cougars are ahead of only one Big 12 team in the SP+ rankings, with Kansas coming in at No. 61.
  • Other Big 12 teams closest to BYU in the SP+ rankings include West Virginia (No. 56), Houston (No. 53), Cincinnati (No. 46) and Iowa State (No. 45). Among those teams, BYU hosts Cincinnati (Sept. 29) and Iowa State (Nov. 11) this season, while playing at Kansas (Sept. 23) and West Virginia (Nov. 4).
  • There are four Big 12 teams in the top 25 of the SP+ rankings: Texas (No. 9), Oklahoma (No. 13), TCU (No. 20) and Kansas State (No. 23).
  • Ten of the Big 12’s 14 teams are in the top 50 of the SP+ rankings, and the average ranking for Big 12 teams is 37.8 — second among Power Five conferences, behind the SEC (21.9) and ahead of the Big Ten (38.7).
  • BYU ranks 68th nationally in returning production at 60%, per Connelly’s numbers. That includes ranking No. 60 on defense (64%) and No. 85 on offense (57%). That is a stark contrast to last season, when the Cougars ranked second in returning production. 
  • Fellow Big 12 team Kansas ranks No. 1 nationally in returning production at 85%, per Connelly. That includes 91% returning production on offense.

Big 12 teams in the post-spring SP+ rankings

9. Texas.

13. Oklahoma.

20. TCU.

23. Kansas State.

32. Baylor. 

35. UCF.

38. Texas Tech.

39. Oklahoma State.

45. Iowa State. 

46. Cincinnati. 

53. Houston.

56. West Virginia.

60. BYU.

61. Kansas.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham observes his team as the Utes participate in the 22 Forever Game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Head coach Kyle Whittingham, observes his team from the field as the University of Utah football team plays in the 22 Forever Game at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 22, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Where does Utah football rank in ESPN’s post-spring SP+ rankings?

  • Utah ranks No. 14 nationally in the SP+ rankings, including No. 13 on offense and No. 26 on defense.
  • The Utes are ahead of all but two Pac-12 teams, trailing only USC (No. 7) and Oregon (No. 11).
  • Other Pac-12 teams in the top 25 of the SP+ rankings are Washington (No. 17) and UCLA (No. 24). Among the Pac-12 teams in the top 25, Utah hosts UCLA (Sept. 23) and Oregon (Oct. 28), while playing at USC (Oct. 21) and Washington (Nov. 11).
  • Half of the Pac-12’s teams are in the top 30 of the SP+ rankings. There is a steep drop-off after that, with the other six ranging from California at No. 54 to Colorado at No. 103.
  • The average rank for Pac-12 teams in the SP+ rankings is 45.5, fourth among Power Five conferences.
  • Utah ranks 23rd nationally in returning production at 71%, per Connelly’s numbers. That includes ranking No. 26 on offense (74%) and No. 41 on defense (68%). 
  • USC is the top Pac-12 team (and 10th nationally) in returning production at 76%, per Connelly. That includes 78% returning production on defense.

Pac-12 teams in the post-spring SP+ rankings

7. USC. 

11. Oregon. 

14. Utah.

17. Washington. 

24. UCLA. 

30. Oregon State. 

54. California. 

58. Washington State. 

63. Arizona State. 

70. Arizona. 

95. Stanford. 

103. Colorado.

Utah State University football coach Blake Anderson talks with a referee on Friday Oct 1, 2021.
Utah State University football coach Blake Anderson talks with a referee during a game in Logan on Friday Oct 1, 2021. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Where does Utah State football in ESPN’s post-spring SP+ rankings?

  • Utah State ranks No. 116 nationally in the SP+ rankings, including No. 122 on offense and No. 125 on defense.
  • The Aggies are ahead of three Mountain West teams, including Colorado State (No. 118), Hawaii (No. 124) and New Mexico (No. 132).
  • The highest ranked MWC teams in the SP+ rankings are Boise State (No. 62) and Fresno State (No. 68), the only conference teams in the top 75. Utah State hosts both Boise State (Nov. 18) and Fresno State (Oct. 14) this season, and of the teams the Aggies rank ahead of, they host Colorado State (Oct. 7) and play at New Mexico (Nov. 25).
  • Half of the MWC’s 12 teams are in the top 100 of the SP+ rankings, with the average rank for MWC teams at 99.5.
  • Utah State, which has lost a significant amount of its roster to the transfer portal this season, ranks 127th nationally in returning production at 41%, per Connelly’s numbers. That includes ranking No. 122 on offense (41%) and No. 125 on defense (42%). 
  • Utah State ranked No. 103 in returning production in the initial SP+ rankings back in February, but had a dozen more players enter the transfer portal during the spring transfer window.
  • Wyoming is the top Mountain West team (and 13th nationally) in returning production at 74%, per Connelly. That includes 84% returning production on defense.

MWC teams in the post-spring SP+ rankings

62. Boise State.

68. Fresno State.

81. Air Force.

85. San Diego State.

92. Wyoming.

97. San Jose State.

107. UNLV.

113. Nevada.

116. Utah State.

118. Colorado State.

124. Hawaii.

132. New Mexico.