BYU, Utah and Utah State are all facing tough teams this fall.
While the Aggies, Cougars and Utes aren't exactly getting much attention as national writers put out their preseason rankings, several of their opponents are. That means all of our local teams will at least have a chance of improving their resumes by beating some of these preseason top 25 teams.
Granted, it is still awfully early, but what else are we going to talk about during the long summer before football returns?
Six national rankings are being used for this ranking: Athlon Sports (AS), ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI), Sporting News (SN), USA Today (USAT), CBS Sports (CBS) and Sports Illustrated (SI). Each team was given a composite ranking using those six rankings.
According to this composite ranking, Utah will play four top 25 teams, BYU will play three and Utah State will play two. Here they are:
Tied — No. 5: Washington Huskies
Rankings: AS: 8, FPI: 6, SN: 7, USAT: 4, CBS: 12, SI: 4
Games vs. local teams: Sept. 15 at Utah, Sept. 29 vs. BYU
The Huskies have one of the most dangerous backfield duos in QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin. Browning's passing numbers dipped significantly last season as he went from 3,430 yards passing and 43 touchdowns in 2016 to just 2,544 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, and that seems due in large part to the loss of WR John Ross to the NFL. We'll see if Browning can bounce back after finding the right receivers this year. As for Gaskin, he's rushed for at least 1,282 yards all three years he's played at Washington.
Tied — No. 5: Wisconsin Badgers
Rankings: AS: 9, FPI: 12, SN: 6, USAT: 3, CBS: 6, SI: 5
Games vs. local teams: Sept. 15 vs. BYU
Wisconsin's brand of football might not be flashy, but it's designed to crush its opponents in the trenches. The Badgers are returning their entire offensive line and RB Johnathan Taylor, who rushed for 1,847 yards and 13 touchdowns. QB Alex Hornibrook is back too, and that's a big problem for BYU as he made it look easy with 256 yards and four touchdowns to his name. The defense lost a lot of players, but it's still got rock-solid linebackers like senior Andrew Van Ginkel. Ginkel filled his stats sheet with 10.0 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.
No. 11: Michigan State Spartans
Rankings: AS: 12, FPI: 10, SN: 13, USAT: 15, CBS: 5, SI: 10
Games vs. local teams: Aug. 31 vs. Utah State
Michigan State had quite the bounce-back year as it went from three wins in 2016 to 10 last season. The Spartans found their quarterback in Brian Lewerke, who most recently outclassed Washington State with an efficient 213 yards and three touchdowns with 73 more yards on the ground. And this is an experienced group as Michigan State returns 19 of its 22 starters. It's going to be a tough trip to East Lancing for the Aggies to start the season.
No. 13: Stanford Cardinal
Rankings: AS: 18, FPI: 13, SN: 14, USAT: 12, CBS: 13, SI: 11
Games vs. local teams: Oct. 6 vs. Utah
Anyone remember when Stanford was a joke? Looking at what the Cardinal has done under Jim Harbaugh and now David Shaw, Stanford is hard to laugh at. That's particularly true as RB Bryce Love decided to make the NFL wait after rushing for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Yes, the defense took a bit of a step back last season as they gave up 22.7 yards per game in 2017, but when you've got a running back and offensive line that can control the time of possession like Stanford can, you can get away with that. The Utes have to find a way to stop Love if they want to be the ones with the last laugh.
No. 17: USC Trojans
Rankings: AS: 21, FPI: 15, SN: 15, USAT: 25, CBS: 16, SI: 15
Games vs. local teams: Oct. 20 at Utah
If the Utes want to make it to their first-ever Pac-12 championship game, then this game against the reigning conference champions is a must-win at home. That's particularly true as the Trojans don't have to play Washington or Oregon from the Pac-12 North. The good news is that USC has to replace QB Sam Darnold. True freshman JT Daniels is the talk of L.A., but he's far from a proven commodity. However, should Daniels or whoever takes up the QB mantle adjust quickly, the Trojans are talented enough in key positions to make opponents pay.
No. 19: Boise State Broncos
Rankings: AS: 19, FPI: 37, SN: 25, USAT: 14, CBS: 19, SI: 22
Games vs. local teams: Nov. 3 vs. BYU, Nov. 24 vs. Utah State
While Boise State hasn't exactly fallen off the map, it's also been awhile since the Broncos were on the big stage. The last time Boise State went to a big-time bowl was 2014 when it faced Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. The Broncos must be hungry for another New Year's Six appearance after watching teams like Central Florida take what used to be their spot. And they've got some good pieces on their team led by QB Brett Rypien. Rypien led his Broncos to victory over Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl with 362 yards passing and two touchdowns, and he has to be dreaming of a bigger venue this year. BYU and Utah State both have to play the Broncos on the Smurf Turf, which always makes things harder.
Tie — No. 25: Oregon Ducks
Rankings: AS: 23, FPI: 23, SN: NR, USAT: NR, CBS: 23, SI: 21
Games vs. local teams: Nov. 10 at Utah
The Ducks barely sneak into the composite top 25 after tying Oklahoma State for the final spot. New head coach Mario Cristobal was head coach at FIU before getting the ax, but he spent three years under coaching superstar Nick Saban at Alabama before getting the offensive coordinator job at Oregon last season. QB Justin Herbert returns after rushing and passing for 2,166 total yards and 10 touchdowns despite playing in just eight games last season due to a collarbone injury. Plus, Oregon's defense is going in the right direction after cutting 12.4 points per game from its opponents between 2016 and 2017.
The composite top 25
In case you were curious, here's the composite top 25 used for this story. The number of points are shown in parenthesis
1. Alabama (148)
2. Clemson (146)
3. Ohio State (132)
4. Georgia (130)
T – 5. Washington (115)
T – 5. Wisconsin (115)
7. Oklahoma (110)
8. Miami (100)
9. Auburn (97)
10. Penn St. (93)
11. Michigan St. (91)
12. Michigan (87)
13. Stanford (75)
14. Notre Dame (74)
15. Mississippi St. (53)
16. Virginia Tech (50)
17. USC (49)
18. TCU (44)
19. Boise State (37)
20. West Virgina (33)
21. Florida St. (30)
22. Texas (28)
23. UCF (22)
24. Florida (18)
T – 25. Oklahoma St. (14)
T – 25. Oregon (14)
Others receiving points: Texas A&M (13), FAU (11), LSU (9), San Diego St. (6), South Carolina (5), Iowa St. (4), Georgia Tech (2), Iowa (1)