The vastly different trajectories for BYU and Utah heading into the 2024 college football season are reflected in the preseason Big 12 media poll released last week — the Utes are the favorites, while the Cougars are projected to be among the league’s worst teams.

What kind of pressure does that put on BYU coach Kalani Sitake and Utah’s veteran coach Kyle Whittingham going into the 2024 season?

What is the toughest stretch for each Big 12 football team this season?

On3′s Jesse Simonton took a look at the pressure levels each Big 12 head coach is under, and it helps paint a picture of what expectations Sitake and Whittingham face this year.

Simonton noted that his take wasn’t a “hot seat list”; rather, it’s a pressure gauge, with four designations: low, medium, high and extreme.

That’s in addition to an overall ranking of the pressure each of the conference’s 16 head coaches face this season.

Where did BYU’s Kalani Sitake land on On3′s Big 12 pressure check rankings?

Sitake didn’t land in the highest pressure gauge category — Baylor’s Dave Aranda is alone in the “extreme” classification.

Instead, Sitake is in the “high” pressure category and Simonton ranks him No. 3 on the pressure rankings in the Big 12.

That’s because the Cougars lost five straight to end their first year in the Big 12 and missed the bowl season with a 5-7 record. In eight seasons as BYU’s head coach, that was the second time a Sitake-led team didn’t qualify for the postseason.

Here’s where Utah and BYU were picked in Big 12 preseason media poll — and which players were named to All-Big 12 team

“BYU’s move to a power conference came with the expected growing pains, as the Cougars went 5-7 and suffered multiple blowout losses. Not too long ago, Sitake once sat on a bubbling hot seat at his alma mater, and after losing five straight games to end last season, he needs a strong bounce-back year this fall,” Simonton wrote.

“Sitake is entering his ninth season at BYU and he’s taken the program to six bowl games. The Cougars are recruiting better than many anticipated (seventh-best class in the conference in 2024), but they’re projected to win just four games in 2024 so more turbulent times could be ahead.”

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 did Utah’s Kyle Whittingham land on On3′s Big 12 pressure check rankings?

Whittingham has one of the nation’s most consistent programs — the Utes have finished ranked in the top 25 in six of the past 10 seasons.

Utah is also expected to be in strong contention for the Big 12 championship and for a coveted spot in the expanded 12-team College Football Playoff, with guys like Cam Rising and Brant Kuithe returning from injury and a strong returning core coming back around them.


Simonton argues, though, that Utah could face some pressure in Whittingham’s 20th season as the Utes’ head coach.

Whittingham lands No. 12 on the pressure rankings, one of eight coaches under a “medium” classification.

“The recent news to make defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley Utah’s official head coach changes the pressure meter for Whittingham in 2024. Considering his past accomplishments, the 64-year-old head coach would be under little pressure in 2024, but what if this is maybe his last or second-to-last season as a head coach?” Simonton wrote.

“The Utes have the team to win the Big 12 in their first year in the league — giving Whittingham a chance to win a conference title in three separate leagues. Could this be a swan song season for the future Hall of Fame head coach?”

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