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Dick Harmon: Which team in the state is the best? Utes have bragging rights

After only five weeks, however, head to head still rules

Published: Sunday, July 5 2015 8:03 p.m. MDT

Utah State Aggies quarterback Craig Harrison (12) delivers a pass during the second half against BYU at Romney Stadium on Friday, October 4, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Utah State Aggies quarterback Craig Harrison (12) delivers a pass during the second half against BYU at Romney Stadium on Friday, October 4, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

There’s a mild argument out there over which of the three major college football teams in the state of Utah is the best team.

The no-brainer argument is it has to be the Utah Utes because Kyle Whittingham’s team defeated both Utah State and BYU — plain and simple, close the book.

But there is some posturing that BYU defeated the Aggies by a bigger margin on the road and was dominant, albeit USU played three quarters without star quarterback Chuckie Keeton.

An additional component to toss in the bin are rankings — how outsiders view the trio. The Jeff Sagarin Ratings have BYU ranked 29th, Utah 34th and USU 38th.

Another poll, which seems a little out of whack — check that, a lot out of whack — is Lee Burdorf’s Rankings. Burdorf, a handicapper of games, is a veteran sportscaster and play-by-play man for college football. He has BYU ranked No. 10, USU 28 and Utah 33. Unbelievable or not, it is an outsider's opinion.

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill (4) hands off to teammate Algernon Brown in the second half at Romney Stadium on Friday, October 4, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill (4) hands off to teammate Algernon Brown in the second half at Romney Stadium on Friday, October 4, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

There's also the USA Today Coaches Poll. Among these three teams, BYU is the only one receiving points from votes (2).

USA Today re-ranked all 125 FBS teams this week. The national newspaper has BYU ranked 37th, Utah 49th and Utah State 58th.

But after five weeks, let face it, head to head rules.

Let’s just say Utah has won the superiority right to brag for the time being, perhaps for the rest of the year. We could readjust things after the bowl season when we see how seasons play out and then argue some more.

Thing is, Utah has the toughest schedule. It will kill them in rankings if they stumble, but it could pay dividends if the Utes start winning.

No question the Utes have a major challenge this weekend when they host No. 5 Stanford at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Utah Utes quarterback Travis Wilson (7) throws against UCLA in Salt Lake City  Friday, Oct. 4, 2013.  UCLA won 34-27.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah Utes quarterback Travis Wilson (7) throws against UCLA in Salt Lake City Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. UCLA won 34-27. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Speaking of how challenging it is to see such Pac-12 power stock in town, Ute linebacker Jason Whittingham told KUTV on Sunday night:

“It’s fun to play those teams. I think we have to have the mindset that we’re not playing with the little kids anymore. We’re up here in the Pac-12 with the big boys and we need to make a statement.”

So, how good is the Pac-12 these days? And how tough is the Ute challenge after starting 0-2 in the league?

The Pac-12 features four teams in the Top 25, including No. 2 Oregon, No. 5 Stanford, No. 11 UCLA and No. 16 Washington.

Among national leaders, the Pac-12 features the No. 1 quarterback in passing yards in Sean Mannion of Oregon State (2,018 yards) and the No. 3 guy in Washington State’s Connor Halliday; Jared Goff of California is No. 5; and Taylor Kelly of ASU is No. 8.

In the rushing department, USC’s Tre Madden ranks No. 15 — just ahead of BYU’s Taysom Hill at No. 16.

The nation’s top receiver in terms of yards is Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, followed by No. 7 Paul Richardson of Colorado, No. 13 Chris Harper of Cal, and No. 14 Jaelen Strong of ASU.

Arizona State’s Marion Grice is the nation’s scoring leader with 78 points and OSU’s Cooks is No 8 with 54.

Stanford’s Ty Montgomery, whose talents will be in Salt Lake City Saturday, is the No. 4-ranked kickoff return specialist. California features the nation’s No. 3 kicker in Vincenzo D’Amato with 11 field goals.

If you take ESPN’s enhanced and adjusted quarterback rating formula, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is the No. 2-ranked QB in the country with a 96.8 rating. This rating formula is different than the NCAA’s pass efficiency rating because it takes into account the strength of the defense played against by a quarterback.

Anyway, those are the facts, polls, statistics and opinions for the sake of discussion around water coolers leading up to a great college football weekend, with the Aggies hosting Boise State, the Utes playing Stanford and BYU taking on Georgia Tech in a homecoming affair.

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

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