For BYU, Utah and Utah State, the 2023 college football season kicks off next week, and the state’s three FBS programs have varying expectations for the quickly approaching season. 

The Cougars will be trying to be competitive in their first season in the Big 12.

The Utes are looking to take home a Pac-12 championship for a third straight year.

The Aggies have seen an overwhelming amount of turnover this offseason and are aiming to return to the upper half of the Mountain West.

ESPN’s Bill Connelly released his final version of the preseason SP+ rankings last week, and as they did in previous versions earlier this offseason, those expectations for the three Utah schools are largely reflected in the rankings.

Connelly explained that the rankings are based on three factors:

  • A team’s returning production.
  • The school’s recent recruiting efforts.
  • The program’s recent history.

Connelly added that the “SP+ is a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency. It is a predictive measure of the most sustainable and predictable aspects of football, not a résumé ranking, and, along those same lines, these projections aren’t intended to be a guess at what the AP Top 25 will look like at the end of the year.”

While Utah’s and Utah State’s rankings were largely unchanged in Connelly’s latest update, BYU did see a bit of a jump among its Big 12 peers.

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


BYU Cougars football coach Kalani Sitake looks around as he walks off the field following practice in Provo on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Where does BYU rank in ESPN’s final preseason SP+ rankings?

  • BYU comes in at No. 51 nationally in the SP+ metrics with a 5.1 rating, up nine spots from when the rankings were last updated in May. The Cougars also ranked 40th on offense and 70th on defense.
  • The Cougars are 10th among Big 12 teams in the final preseason SP+ rankings, after having previously been 13th. Since the last update, BYU jumped Cincinnati, Houston and West Virginia.
  • BYU is 63rd in returning production at 61% overall, according to Connelly’s numbers, including 84th on offense (at 57%) and 52nd on defense (at 64%).
  • The Cougars are projected for 5.7 wins overall and 3.5 in conference play and BYU’s strength of schedule is 30th nationally, per the SP+ rankings.
  • Among the Cougars’ nonconference opponents, Arkansas is ranked 30th (12.1 rating) nationally in the SP+ metrics, while Sam Houston is 119th (minus-17.1). FCS opponent Southern Utah isn’t ranked.
  • The Big 12 has four teams in the top 25 of the SP+ metrics, including Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas State and TCU.

Big 12 teams in the final preseason SP+ rankings

  • 9. Texas — 22.2 rating.
  • 15. Oklahoma — 18.8.
  • 20. Kansas State — 14.5.
  • 21. TCU — 14.5.
  • 32. Texas Tech — 11.5
  • 34. Baylor — 10.9.
  • 38. Oklahoma State — 9.8.
  • 39. UCF — 9.6.
  • 49. Iowa State — 5.6.
  • 51. BYU — 5.1.
  • 53. Cincinnati — 4.9.
  • 57. Houston — 4.3.
  • 60. West Virginia — 2.6.
  • 62. Kansas — 1.9.

University of Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham talks to members of the media.
University of Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham talks to members of the media outside of the Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center after practice in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 31, 2023. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Where does Utah rank in ESPN’s final preseason SP+ rankings?

  • Utah comes in at No. 14 nationally in the SP+ metrics with an 18.8 rating, the same spot it was positioned in May. The Utes also ranked 12th on offense and 26th on defense.
  • The Utes are third among Pac-12 teams in the SP+ rankings, trailing only USC (No. 7) and Oregon (No. 13) — though the Trojans fell three spots and the Ducks two since the last update.
  • Utah is 25th in returning production at 71% overall, according to Connelly’s numbers, including 25th on offense (at 74%) and 39th on defense (at 68%).
  • The Utes are projected for 8.6 wins overall and 6.3 in conference play and Utah’s strength of schedule is 27th nationally, per the SP+ rankings.
  • Among the Utes’ nonconference opponents, Florida is ranked 23rd (13.7 rating) nationally in the SP+ metrics, while Baylor is 34th (10.9). FCS opponent Weber State isn’t ranked.
  • The Pac-12 has four teams in the top 25 of the SP+ metrics, including USC, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

Pac-12 teams in the final preseason SP+ rankings

  • 10. USC — 20.9 rating.
  • 13. Oregon — 19.0.
  • 14. Utah — 18.8.
  • 17. Washington — 17.2.
  • 28. UCLA — 12.5.
  • 31. Oregon State — 11.8.
  • 54. Washington State — 4.6.
  • 61. California — 1.9.
  • 67. Arizona — minus 0.8.
  • 69. Arizona State — minus 1.0.
  • 88. Colorado — minus 9.0.
  • 92. Stanford — minus 10.4.

Utah State head coach Blake Anderson checks a call during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Alabama, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. | Vasha Hunt, Associated Press

Where does Utah State rank in ESPN’s final preseason SP+ rankings?

  • Utah State comes in at No. 113 nationally in the SP+ metrics with a minus-15.4 rating, up three spots from where it ranked in May. The Aggies also ranked 108th nationally on both offense and defense.
  • The Aggies are ninth among Mountain West teams in the SP+ rankings, ahead of three teams — Colorado State, Hawaii and New Mexico. Utah State was ahead of all three in the previous rankings.
  • Utah State is 125th in returning production at 41% overall, according to Connelly’s numbers, including 121st on offense (at 41%) and 123rd on defense (at 41%).
  • The Aggies are projected for 4.5 wins overall and 2.7 in conference play and Utah State’s strength of schedule is 102nd nationally, per the SP+ rankings.
  • Among the Aggies’ nonconference opponents, Iowa is ranked 22nd (14.0 rating) nationally in the SP+ metrics, James Madison is 66th (0.8) and UConn is 125th (minus 18.9). FCS opponent Idaho State isn’t ranked.
  • The Mountain West has four teams in the top 75 of the SP+ metrics, including Boise State, Fresno State and Air Force.

Mountain West Conference teams in the final preseason SP+ rankings

  • 48. Boise State — 5.8 rating.
  • 63. Fresno State — 1.8.
  • 70. Air Force — minus 1.6.
  • 80. San Diego State — minus 5.8.
  • 90. Wyoming — minus 9.5.
  • 94. San Jose State — minus 11.1.
  • 106. Nevada — minus 13.9.
  • 110. UNLV — minus 14.6.
  • 113. Utah State — minus 15.4.
  • 114. Colorado State — minus 16.0.
  • 120. Hawaii — minus 17.6.
  • 127. New Mexico — minus 20.2.