SALT LAKE CITY — Now that BYU has made the big change by removing Brandon Doman as offensive coordinator and bringing back former OC Robert Anae to fill the position, can Utah be far behind in making the same move?
Utah offensive coordinator Brian Johnson had even less experience than Doman before getting the job last year, and the Utes’ offense ranked way worse than BYU’s in 2012 (105th nationally compared to 61st for BYU).
A change might happen at the U., but I doubt it will because it would mean Utah would have its fifth offensive coordinator in five years. And coach Kyle Whittingham would have to admit his gamble on having a 25-year-old lead his offense was not a smart idea.
Unlike BYU’s Bronco Mendenhall, Whittingham would have a hard time recycling a former OC unless he promotes wide receivers coach Aaron Roderick (co-OC in 2010) or brings back Dave Schramm (2009-10) from Fresno State, where he is the offensive coordinator. Andy Ludwig, the Utah offensive coordinator from 2005-08, has a better job as Gary Andersen’s OC at Wisconsin, and Norm Chow, Ute OC in 2011, is the head man at Hawaii.
I still think Whittingham would have been wise last year to bring in former BYU coach Gary Crowton, who had nearly a decade of experience as the OC for Oregon, LSU, Maryland and the Chicago Bears and was interviewed for the U. job. He could have helped groom Johnson to take over in a few years when he was a more seasoned coach.
— For those who thought Utah basketball was still years away from being relevant again, think again.
While the Utes aren’t likely to be playing in any postseason tournament again this year, they have proved they can play with any team on their schedule and those embarrassing 30-point losses of a year ago are a distant memory.
The Utes are coming off a heartbreaking road trip to Arizona where they had shots to win in the last 10 seconds of each game, only to come up short in a 55-54 overtime loss to an 11-2 Arizona State team and a 60-57 loss to unbeaten, No. 3-ranked Arizona.
Utah would have won either or both games if those last-second shots had fallen, but the young team hasn’t learned how to close out games yet. That was evident in close losses to BYU, Sacramento State and Cal State Northridge when the Utes couldn’t hold double-digit second-half leads.
The Utes are still unlikely to finish with a winning record in either the regular season or Pac-12 play. But I stand by my preseason prediction that the Utes won’t finish last in the league as everyone predicted and could finish as high as seventh or eighth. And with nearly everyone coming back next year, the Utes should keep moving up the standings and could be back in the NCAA Tournament within a year or two.
— After a few down years, Pac-12 basketball appears to be back this season. Or is it?
It’s true that 11 of the 12 schools have winning records right now, but that’s mostly due to the soft scheduling that most of the teams employ, with nearly all nonconference games at home and few games against top competition.
A closer look reveals that just one team is in the Top 25 — the Mountain West, on the other hand, has three ranked teams — and some of the leagues’ losses this year have come to the likes of Cal Poly (UCLA), Albany (Washington), Harvard (Cal), Towson (Oregon State) Belmont (Stanford) and Pepperdine (Washington State).
That's another reason why Utah should win more league games this year.
— Every year at this time we take a look at the bowl records of each conference to see which was the best in the postseason.
Several times in recent years, the winner of the ESPN Bowl Challenge Cup was the Mountain West Conference, which had the best bowl record four times between 2005 and 2011. Only one other conference had more than one win in the decade beginning in 2002 — the ACC with two.
Things have changed since Utah and BYU left the conference. This year the MWC had the worst bowl record among the 11 FBS conferences at 1-4.
And what about the WAC, which was 2-0? Conferences need to play at least three bowl games to win the Challenge Cup and the WAC could have had three, except that Louisiana Tech was left out in the cold after trying to hold out for a bigger bowl game.
Among the major conferences, the ACC finished at 4-2, the Pac-12 at 4-4, the Big 12 at 4-5 and the Big Ten at 2-5. The SEC is 5-3, going into Monday’s BCS championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame.