Legitimate football chatter kicks off this week as college football camps begin.
What’ve we got?
Utah has a bully defense looking for offensive help.
Utah State seeks a metamorphosis back to winning.
BYU seeks to keep momentum found from a strange COVID-19 season.
Stay tuned for details, hype, analysis and profiles galore.
But for now, there’s a big month of prep followed by a month of drama.
In September, you want your football team to rocket out of the chute anyway it can. But learning, fine-tuning execution, building team chemistry and establishing a brand all take work. Most teams find those tasks take a few weeks of actual games against others.
The old adage that a football team experiences its greatest growth between the first and second game is a well-worn refrain — usually after first-game losses.
How will September fare for Utah, BYU and Utah State, the Beehive State’s three FBS programs?
Can Utah win a Pac-12 South Division title after remarkably getting practically an entire roster to stay and not opt out for the NFL draft this past spring?
Can Utah State find some fire and traction after losing Gary Andersen and replacing him with Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson? Anderson’s a likable veteran coach who has done all the glad-handing and grin and greets selling his vision of a of quick-strike, big-play offense in Logan.
Will BYU’s Kalani Sitake find a way to parlay an 11-win season into continued success after losing Zach Wilson to the New York Jets as the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft?
BYU has the toughest September of the three, opening in the Las Vegas Raiders’ new stadium against Arizona, then hosting two of the three favorites to win the Pac-12 South in Utah and Arizona State before finishing with South Florida.
As an independent, BYU doesn’t get the luxury of easing into a September with some expected wins to gain some traction. This is about as tough of a September as BYU has had in the recent past.
Utah does have the luxury of easing into the schedule, opening against FCS Weber State, playing rival BYU in a game that will be hyped as a possible unprecedented 10th-straight win over the Cougars, followed by a game with San Diego State, which was picked to finish middle of the pack in the West Division of the Mountain West Conference.
The final week of the month is a game at Washington State, a middling Pac-12 North team.
The Aggies have the burden and blessing of ushering in a new era of USU football. They open with Washington State, then take on North Dakota State, Air Force and MWC favorite Boise State. That’s not going to be an easy start.
BYU is a slight favorite to beat Arizona in Vegas, where the largest contingent of BYU fans ever gathered outside of Utah will witness the 2021 opener. Utah will be favored to extend its win streak and should do so unless something drastic happens, like Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer stumbling early, but don’t count on that happening from a vet who took the Bears to the Big 12 championship game.
ASU will be favored also, even in Provo, and the Cougars should beat South Florida to start 2-2.
Could it be BYU’s three Pac 12 games in September are more than anybody in that league? Yes, except for USC who has Stanford, Oregon State and Washington State in that span.
It would be a major surprise and kind of a wreck if Utah does not get to October undefeated. The Utes have talent, the best defensive line in the Pac 12, a loaded secondary and plenty of positive vibes over what many say is the best developmental program in the nation, as evidenced by NFL draft picks and success in dominating the all-league honors list for several seasons. Utah goes 4-0.
Utah State must resurrect the nation’s least efficient offense from 2020 and create a culture while building confidence. This schedule doesn’t help.
You have to be fired up in Aggieville that Anderson brought in former UCF offensive coordinator Anthony Tucker, who will deploy a fast-break, lightning-quick setup to the offense. Will it take time to get untracked? Utah State starts 1-3 and yet may still be a team that can do some MWC damage and get to a bowl.