Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — So I see Utah replaced BYU on its football schedule for the 2014 and ‘15 seasons with Fresno State. What? The Utes dropped their century-long traditional game with the Cougars for a home-and-home series with Fresno State?
I figured the Utes could have gone two ways with this. Either get another big-name opponent to go with Michigan on the schedule or get a lower D-I program that was an almost-certain victory rather than the always-nerve-wracking rivalry game.
Instead they got a team on a comparable level to BYU.
Sure, BYU has a longer and better football history than Fresno State, but right now there isn’t that much difference between the two programs. This year, the Bulldogs went 9-3 and are ranked 37th in the Sagarin computer rankings compared to BYU’s 7-5 mark and No. 32 Sagarin ranking.
If the Utes dropped BYU because they were worried about a non-conference road loss on their record, it seems they are just as likely to get one in Fresno as they are in Provo.
After all, in its last 10 visits to Provo, Utah’s record is 7-3 with the three losses coming by an average of four points. As for Fresno, the Utes have never won there, losing in all three of their visits by an average score of 40-17.
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: It’s a shame what is happening within the ever-changing world of college conference alignments. Tradition and proximity have been thrown out the window in favor of potential television revenue in big markets. That’s why we recently had Rutgers and Maryland joining the Midwest-centered Big Ten, presumably so the league can include the New York and Washington, D.C., TV markets.
Of course, Utah is very happy to be in the Pac-12, from a financial standpoint if nothing else. BYU claims to be happy with its football independent status and its involvement with the West Coast Conference. And Utah State is thrilled to be moving into the Mountain West Conference after dominating the WAC in football this year.
But let’s just dream a little bit. What if we could have the original Mountain West Conference plus Boise State, TCU, Utah State and Fresno State? That would be a pretty formidable and exciting conference in both football and basketball.
BASKETBALL POWER: Speaking of the Mountain West, have you taken a look at how the conference is faring this year in men's basketball? The league formerly occupied by the Utes and Cougars is having another great season on the hardwoods.
Eight of the nine teams have winning records and three, New Mexico (11-0), San Diego State (8-1) and UNLV (8-1) are ranked in the Top 25 in the nation, at 17, 18 and 20, respectively, last week. Another, unbeaten Wyoming (10-0), is just outside of the Top 25.
Compare that to the Utes’ and Cougars’ conferences.
While the Pac-12 has all but one of its teams enjoying a winning record (USC is 4-6), only Arizona is ranked among the Top 25 with Oregon (9-1) knocking on the door. In head-to-head matchups against the MWC, the Pac-12 has a losing record of 6-7 this year.
In the WCC, where seven of the nine have winning records, 10-1 Gonzaga is the only ranked team and the conference has an 0-5 mark against the MWC.
It’s no surprise that the latest Sagarin rankings have the MWC at No. 4 in the nation, ahead of the Big 12 , SEC and Pac-12, which is No. 6, as well as the WCC, which is 10th.
So perhaps this isn’t the year to for local fans to wish they were back in the MWC.
THRILLING VICTORIES: It was quite a day to be a University of Arizona fan Saturday. Talk about going from the agony of defeat to the thrill of victory in two different games.
In the afternoon, Wildcat fans saw their football team trail Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl all day. It was 45-28 going into the final quarter and 48-35 with less than a minute to play.
However, the Wildcats scored twice in a 27-second span in the final minute thanks to a successful onsides kick and they took a 49-48 victory.
In the evening, the No. 8-ranked Wildcats trailed all game against No. 5 Florida and were down by six points in the final minute, only to win with a basket with seven seconds left to win 65-64.
Two come-from behind one-point wins in the final minute for your school’s two major teams in the same day — it doesn’t get much better than that.
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